ATASCADERO — The City of Atascadero has officially abandoned plans to build a series of roundabouts at the intersections of Del Rio Road and El Camino Real and the Del Rio Road/Highway101 interchange. 

The City hired the Wallace Group to design a series of three roundabouts in the area in 2015 at a cost not to exceed $798,500 in anticipation of Walmart building a supercenter at the southeast corner of Del Rio and El Camino Real. Walmart was expected to generate 53 percent of the traffic at the two intersections and thus would have been required to pay 53 percent of the nearly $12 million construction costs for the roundabouts. Since Walmart pulled out of its Atascadero project in 2017, the City has decided to scale back improvements at the intersection based instead on the current anticipated development of four large tracts of land in the area.

“The Commercial Area Specific Plan is still in force and specifies roundabouts, but staff has seen a shift in potential land uses,” Atascadero Public Works Director Nick DeBar told the City Council at a meeting Tuesday.

Based on the most likely scenario of development for the area, City staff recommended a new set of traffic mitigations that will be much more affordable than the roundabouts. The new measures would include addition northbound and southbound turn lanes and “turn pockets” from El Camino onto westbound Del Rio Road along with changes to traffic signal timing and coordination at the intersections. 

DeBar based the most likely scenario for development in the area on current building plans that have been submitted at City Hall. In addition to the new Hilton Home2 Suites project that is nearly complete, the area could soon see the addition of a drive-thru Taco Bell restaurant, a gas station, multiple sit-down restaurants, a brewery, multiple office park/industrial park projects, multiple housing projects and an additional hotel project, all of which could generate as many as 16,000-plus trips per day through the Del Rio interchange. 

A potential second phase of the project could see a widening of the Del Rio overpass bridge at some point in the future but that would be contingent upon further development. The Council did however direct staff to set a “plan line” for any developments building in the area that would leave room for the bridge to be widened in the future. 

“This provides the catalyst to amend the Del Rio Specific Plan,” DeBar said. “Currently, that plan still says Walmart has to build the roundabout at El Camino and Del Rio, the city’s still building roundabouts at the northbound and southbound interchanges, the annexees can’t go in until the city’s project up on the interchange is complete. So it’s really locked up this whole development in this area.”

The City Council voted unanimously to abandon the roundabout plans and direct staff to amend the City’s agreement with Wallace Group to include the new traffic mitigations and develop a plan line so that any future developments won’t be built on land needed for infrastructure improvements and also to amend the Del Rio Specific Plan.

“Frankly, I think it’s really important that we do look at the future,” Mayor Heather Moreno said. “We don’t want a future council and community to sit here and say, ‘Man, if only they had planned for 20 years down the line,’ so that’s what we want to do.”

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