Years of planning and public input culminated Thursday in the opening of the Newhall roundabout, complete with oversized scissors and a big red ribbon.
The new thoroughfare is part of Santa Clarita city officials’ effort to make traffic through downtown Newhall safer and more appealing, said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste.
It was an 1800s little, quiet, rural street with dirt and horses, and a few shops and a train,” Weste said, harkening back to the area’s first commuters.
“And it became a bigger town with four lanes and CalTrans plowing right through it at 55, 60 mph, and in order to accommodate having a Main Street in an old town, we had to accommodate the flow of traffic that deals with Metrolink’s need,” she said, referring to a station about 1,000 feet from the roundabout.
The plan was initially greeted with skepticism by many, who expressed concern about the safety of roundabouts, or traffic circles.
However, Santa Clarita officials said city traffic engineers chose the roundabout because it was the safest option available.
There was also much public feedback about the choices for what to do with the middle of the roundabout, with Santa Clarita city officials deciding to go with a landscaping option.
The Newhall neighborhood actually has a lesser-known history of roundabouts that dates back to about the time the area was first inhabited.
A picture on SCVHistory.com shows a picture of the traffic circle at the intersection of Newhall Avenue, Railroad Avenue and San Fernando Road that likely dates back to the 1920s.
“People need to give it a chance,” said Simon Mee, who’s added that he’s originally from Nottingham, England, where there are more roundabouts than traffic lights.
Original Newhall roundabout, circa 1926.
“It’s dead easy, and it’s only a one-lane one, as well,” Mee said. “So you just get there, a quick look to the left, give way, and round you go. And it flows, that’s what’s good about it.”
Mee, who owns the Egg Plantation and Newhall Refinery, both popular Newhall spots, said the city’s efforts to beautify downtown Newhall have been a boon to business.
“It looks real nice in front of the park, and I think they’ve done a fabulous job,” Mee added, hoping that the city’s efforts will attract more independent shops, whether they are bars, restaurants or a Laemmle theater. “It’ll definitely help businesses down here.”