Crowd out for roundabout

Roundtable discussion for Hwy 93/95 intersection change

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is reaching out to those in the Village of Radium Hot Springs to talk about a roundabout they’re planning to build at the Highway 95 and Highway 93 four-way stop intersection.

Last week they held a meeting with the local business community to discuss the pros and cons of leaving the intersection as it is, adding traffic lights or building a roundabout. They will have another meeting for residents and members of the public on Wednesday, September 4th.

Tim Dyer, the ministry’s regional project manager for the southern interior, said that as traffic increases at the four-way stop so do existing issues at like excessive wait times. In the summer, 14,000 vehicles a day cross through the intersection, he said. During peak times, backups can stretch as far as two kilometres down the road.

Traffic lights would offer “better safety and reliability” than the current stop signs, he said, but lights result in more collisions than roundabouts, which “reduce the likelihood of drivers making risky manoeuvres.”

Accidents in roundabouts also tend to be less severe than those in intersections controlled with traffic lights, he said, because while vehicles in roundabouts may glance off one another they wouldn’t get into head-on collisions.

The roundabout comes with an $11.9 million price tag, which will be shared between the federal and provincial governments.

While it would be a big change for the community, Mr. Dyer said: “we’ve been successfully implementing roundabouts around the province.”

When locals shared concerns about the construction timeline, which would run from spring to fall in 2020, Mr. Dyer acknowledged the inconvenience but said it would be “short-term pain for the long-term gain.”

Ron Sharp, the ministry’s district manager of transportation, said he expects that the roundabout would be complete before construction would start on the Trans-Canada Highway, sending detouring drivers through Radium.

Fire chief Dave Dixon asked about road closures that would impact access for fire trucks, but Mr. Dyer reassured him that the road wouldn’t be fully closed during construction.

Councillor Mike Gray said he was concerned about big rigs fitting through the roundabout, but Mr. Dyer said it would be large enough to accommodate them.

Mr. Gray was also concerned about pedestrian safety at the downtown crosswalks as traffic would be flowing faster. Mr. Dyer said the ministry is going to look into options for crosswalks.

After the meeting, Mr. Gray said roundabouts have “been proven to work and (it’s been) proven that we’re smart enough to figure it out.”

Mr. Gray – who saw an earlier version of the proposed plans and the changes the ministry made in response to the feedback they gathered – is pleased with how well the ministry is responding to local opinions.

“They’re working hard to address concerns before it becomes an issue,” he said.

He is looking forward to a meeting where the public will be invited to share their feedback. So far Mr. Gray said he has been hearing that some people are nervous about the change but those who are familiar with roundabouts “say that they are fantastic and they are the way to go.”

The public meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 4th from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Radium Hot Springs Centre. Residents will be able to ask their questions, check out a 3D model of the project and share their thoughts with ministry officials.

Federal consultation TBD

While the provincial government is doing advance consultation before they start their work, the federal government paused a construction project in the rocky Lake Windermere groyne south of the Athalmer bridge that was to be completed this summer after local individuals and groups raised concerns about the lack of consultation.

MP Wayne Stetski said locals should be given the opportunity to provide feedback on government construction projects before they proceed. On Wednesday, August 7th Minister Carla Qualtrough – who oversees Public Services and Procurement Canada – committed to holding “appropriate consultations” before the groyne project continues. No information about these consultations is available at this time.

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