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SLO County supervisors halt South County roundabout project in 2-2 tie

KCBX News, Randol White

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County commuters often face traffic congestion heading through the Five Cities area, and county analysts say it’s only going to continue to get worse in the coming years.

To address that problem, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday considered funding a project that would add a roundabout to Highway 227 at Los Ranchos Road, but ultimately did not pass it.

The project would have set aside $691,000 for improvements to Highway 227. Part of that money would go to the roundabout, which has drawn opposition from some local residents who claim it would create even more traffic problems for them.

After public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, county staff told the board that action on the proposal was relatively urgent, as the design and construction process would take years.

"We can all agree that there’s a problem today, and that it’s only going to get worse. I think everyone in this room would agree to that," said Genaro Diaz with SLO County Public Works.

But Supervisor Lynn Compton cited what she considered overwhelming opposition to the project from local residents in rural areas.

"What you’re doing in my opinion is you’re taking a rural area and you’re taking freeway traffic, and you’re rerouting it through a rural area because the freeway can’t accommodate it. That just to me does not fundamentally make sense," Compton said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson supported the project, calling it “inevitable” and a necessary improvement for a growing problem.

"It’s the best solution for congestion, it is the best to protect public safety, it is the most cost-effective to build and it’s most cost-effective to operate in the long term," Gibson said.

After Supervisor John Peschong recused himself due to his "family's experience years ago with Los Ranchos and the stoplight there," the rest of the board split 2-2 on the issue. Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg voted yes and Supervisors Lynn Compton and Debbie Arnold voted no.

However, the project could still move forward in a different capacity, with a county staff report saying that it could be reassigned to a different lead agency.

Updated: April 7, 2022 at 1:35 PM PDT
This article has been updated to add more information on Supervisor Peschong's recusal.
Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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