Center Street / Pacific Avenue / West Cliff Drive roundabout Beach Street & Pacific Avenue roundabout

A modern roundabout is a one-way, circular intersection in which traffic flows around a center island.  These intersections are very common in the rest of the World for quite a while, but only now they're being implemented in cities all across the United States.  Not all circular intersections are roundabouts.  Many existing traffic circles or rotaries operate under different traffic rules and have experienced operational and safety problems.

Modern roundabouts are designed to meet the needs of all road users—drivers, pedestrians, pedestrians with disabilities, and bicyclists by eliminating some of the conflicting traffic, such as left turns, which cause crashes at traditional intersections.  Because roundabout traffic enters or exits only through right turns, the occurrence of severe crashes is substantially reduced.  Small angle collisions that may occur as a result of a right-hand turn are typically less severe than that of other types of intersections.

Research in the U.S. and abroad has shown that roundabouts experience lower crash rates where roundabouts replaced traffic signals or stop signs.  A 2000 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and several other organizations evaluated 24 intersections in California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, South Carolina, and Vermont before and after construction of roundabouts.  The study revealed a 39-percent decrease in crashes, a 76-percent decrease in injury crashes, a 90-percent reduction in crashes involving fatal or incapacitating injuries, a 27-percent reduction in property-damage-only (PDO) crash rate, and pedestrian related crashes were reduced by 30 to 40%.


 - Santa Cruz -

Current Beach Street & Pacific Avenue intersection.

Beach Street & Pacific Avenue

The first roundabout in Santa Cruz County was constructed at the intersection of Pacific Avenue / Center Street / West Cliff Drive / Depot Park.  Construction started in November 2010, and was completed in May 2011, with landscaping completed in April 2012.

The construction of the roundabout at the intersection of Beach Street / Pacific Avenue / Santa Cruz Wharf started on October 13, 2014.  As of May 22, 2015, most of the construction work is done, in time for the Memorial Day weekend traffic.  There will be several more weeks of work in order for lighting, landscaping, signage, and a little more concrete work, etc.

The long term plans for this area is to bring more tourists from the beach area to downtown businesses.  There is also the possibility of changing part of Beach Street (between Cliff Street and Pacific Avenue) from the current one-way, back into two-way traffic for better traffic circulation.  Another roundabout for the intersection of Bay Drive / High Street / Glenn Coolidge Drive (UC Santa Cruz main entrance) is in the planning stages.

Center Street/Pacific Avenue/West Cliff Drive roundabout during construction (April 11, 2011). Old Center Street/Pacific Avenue/West Cliff Drive intersection.


 - Aptos -

The construction of the roundabout at the Rio Del Mar Boulevard/Beach Drive/Esplanade/Aptos Beach Drive/Venetian Road intersection was completed in early 2015.


 - Capitola -

Capitola's first roundabout at the intersection of Bay Avenue/Capitola Avenue,is in the planning stages.


 - Watsonville -

The construction of the first roundabout in the city of Watsonville, at the Pennsylvania Drive/Clifford Avenue intersection started on June 3, 2014, and was open to traffic use on August 15, 2014, even though landscaping was not completed yet.

On March 15, 2016, construction started on the Ohlone Parkway/Manabe Ow Road roundabout, which was completed in July 2016.

The city of Watsonville is also working with CalTrans to design a roundabout for the busy Main Street(Highway 152)/Freedom Boulevard/Western Drive intersection.



  • Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.
  • Watch for signs and/or pavement markings that guide you or prohibit certain movements.
  • Enter the roundabout when there is a big enough gap in traffic.
  • Drive in a counter-clockwise direction.  Do not pass other vehicles, and do not stop except to avoid a collision.  You have the right-of-way over entering traffic.
  • Use your turn signals when you exit the roundabout.
  • As you exit, watch for, and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • If you miss your exit, continue around until you return to your exit.

Center Street/Pacific Avenue/West Cliff Drive roundabout (April 2012). 


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