City says Boyle Heights traffic roundabout is moving in the right direction

Diagram courtesy Public Works Department.

By Tony Cella

Plans to build a major traffic roundabout at Cinco Puntos, the busy and confusing Boyle Heights intersection near Evergreen Cemetery, are moving ahead after the project has been under discussion for more than a decade.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation Senior Engineer Carlos Rios, in a recent presentation before the City Council’s Streets and Transportation Committee, said the design for the oval roundabout at Cesar Chavez and Indiana Street was recently re-submitted and is considered workable.  After the meeting, the engineer said he expected the project to go through one more round of revisions. Once the plans are complete, the city will begin buying property within the right-of-way of the proposed roundabout. Rios estimated the process will take two years.

“We’re finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rios.

The project on the border of Boyle Heights and unincorporated East Los Angeles is designed to increase safety and traffic flow through a junction where  Cesar Chavez, Indiana and Lorena Street meet and weave  around a landmark Veteran’s memorial and traffic islands.  When completed, traffic would travel around an oval median about 145-feet long and and 115-feet wide, according to a previous project descriptions. The Veteran’s memorial would be relocated into the oval.

The idea of turning the four street intersection, which has gained a reputation as a dangerous drive route, into a roundabout has been floated since 2001. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority at one point agreed to spend $6.8 million dollars, according to the L.A. Times, to convert the intersection known as the Cinco Puntos, or Five Points,  into a roundabout with a completion date of 2006.

At last week’s meeting, city officials said the retrofitting of Cinco Puntos into a roundabout   is one of the first of its kind in Los Angeles outside of a residential area.  Another proposed roundabout at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Riverside Drive in Cypress Park is expected  to be finish before the Cinco Puntos project, Rios said.

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.


  1. This looks like a British-style gyratory which means while it would increase traffic flow–rarely a laudable goal, except on freeways–it would almost certain decrease safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. The smooth curves of the merges will encourage, in fact, practically require, speeding, and car a bicycle traffic will be criss-crossing in each of its four quadrants.

    And, of course, it will induce higher-speed driving along the two streets leading up to (and away from) it, almost certainly leading to more crashes and less retail activity along the five streets it pretends to serve.

    Fast throughput is an anti-social goal; there are freeways for that. Surface streets should bring communities together, not divide them through speed, noise, and danger. A roundabout with right-angle turns and stop signs or even signals at each entrance will ACTUALLY enhance safety for drivers as well as non-motorized road users (which includes walkers who have to cross five roads here just to engage in daily life).

    Further, supporting foot and bike traffic over “traffic flow” has been shown to improve commerce while not impeding, and often slightly improving, motor vehicle throughput because the lower speeds prevent drivers form hurrying themselves into jams, as the experiences of cities as different as New York, Portland, and Toronto have repeatedly shown.

    Meanwhile, the UK, home of high-speed gyratories, is moving aways form them, because of their high crash rates.

    A good roundup of the problems (not just for cyclsits and walkers but for local businesses) is on the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2011/jul/21/london-gyratories-cyclists

    • I’m definitely concerned about the smooth curves encouraging higher speeds, but I suspect that by turning straight lines into curves it will actually lower the top speeds. In general, traffic flow is constrained by the lowest speed that vehicles need to get to (and how long they have to remain stopped at lights), while traffic safety is determined by the highest speed that vehicles need to get to, so it’s often possible to improve both at the same time. I’d want to see more of the actual traffic study to know for sure though.

      At any rate, not having been through this intersection myself, I can say that if I were biking north on Lorena towards Indiana, I can see a relatively safe route to do that on the new design, but not on the old one.

      If Cesar Chavez is generally moving at 25-30 mph, then the new design looks safer. But if it’s often moving at 40-45 (or more, as I often see on Sunset), then I’m really not so sure.

    • Wrong!! This will not increase speeds similar to that of freeways. On the contrary, it will reduce the number of core conflict points significantly and it will ensure smoother flow due to a rhythm that generally forms around traffic circles. Speed is also limited by the fact that cars are trying to maneuver in and out of the core traffic lane. Traffic circles really if ever encourage speeds upwards of 20-30 mph. Using hysterics like you just did to describe the current geometry with its strait throughput would sound something like this : CARS WILL SPEED AT 100 MPH LIKE A RUNWAY AT LAX BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING TO SLOW PEOPLE DOWN WITH ITS STRAIT APPROACH. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT 5 POINTS IS IMMUNE FROM TRAFFIC LAWS. 5 POINTS IS A PLACE WIHERE MICE EAT CATS, RAIN FALLS UPWARD AND ROUNDABOUTS ARE MORE A DANGER THAN THE EXISTING CLUSTERFRACK.

  2. This sounds like a really bad idea. I didn’t even know about all the safety concerns Richard mentioned.

    To me there are much better uses for $6.8 million dollars. This intersection is not that confusing but I bet it will be after that roundabout is done.

    How do we go about petitioning to have that money spent elsewhere? No more stupid iPad ideas either.

  3. There is a roundabout on Lakeshore above Sunset.

  4. Traffic circles can be good for automobiles and pedestrians as evidenced by the case of Poynton, UK.


  5. Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit http://tinyurl.com/iihsRAB for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Modern roundabouts, and the pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety measures identified by the FHWA, http://tinyurl.com/7qvsaem
    The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://tinyurl.com/6v44a3x).

  6. thank goodness a little more Euro in America….4/5 way light intersections are terrible in this country . viva LA. now here is the most american of america TV telling you how it is in this video..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvoFjirrgYA

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