In front of about three dozen people, the groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a roundabout in Old Town Newhall took place Tuesday at the corner of 5th and Main streets.
“We have arrived here where we’re now finishing what has been a long and involved beautification project of the Old Town Newhall area,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar.
City officials touted the benefits, looking to allay concerns about the cost, appearance and traffic — during the roundabout’s six-month construction period and the flow once it’s completed.
“The roundabout will allow for smoother traffic flow, providing greater pedestrian connectivity between Main Street and Hart Park,” Kellar said. “Additionally, it will provide a focal point to the southern entrance of Main Street with enhanced landscaping and a historical public art piece in the center of the roundabout.”
The project has led some residents to be concerned over the cost of an art piece that will be placed in the center of the roundabout.
The art piece is expected to be chosen by the Arts Commission at an Oct. 8 meeting.
The price tag for the art piece is expected to be $45,000, which includes equipment, materials and artist fees, according to Jeff Barber, city arts and events supervisor.
However, city officials said the roundabout is part of an effort revitalize Old Town Newhall making traffic in the area more functional and providing a gateway to the southern part of Santa Clarita.
Construction officially began last night, and for the first week will only be done at night.
Starting Monday, there will be day construction involving closures on Newhall Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets.
Construction during this time will occur between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and is expected to last six to eight months. Businesses around the area will be open during construction.
There will signs posted during construction that indicate detours. The main detour will be on Newhall Avenue coming from Highway 14 onto Railroad and Lyons Avenues.
The roundabout is a $2.2 million project funded by the Federal Highway Administration, which provided a $702,000 project grant administered by Caltrans.
National surveys generally indicate a 3-to-1 ratio of those who are against the idea of a roundabout before its inception, which turns to about 3-to-1 in favor of, once commuters regularly use it, according to city traffic engineer Ian Pari.
Kellar asked residents to give it a shot.
“Those concerned should give it some time here,” Kellar said, “and find it will be a great improvement.”
– David Mariuz