On busy summer days or long weekends, Radiums Highway 93/95 intersection is far more deserving of the label dysfunction junction than Invermeres CIBC Corner.
Radiums four-way stop becomes particularly congested on long weekends any time of the year, and weekdays during summer. Just recently I was stuck in a one- kilometre car jam southbound on Highway 95. Other times it is backed up to the tunnel by the hot pools.
The current four-way stop junction is not designed to handle the traffic volumes of several hundred cars per hour at peak times. Having hundreds of travellers waiting for 20 minutes to proceed through the intersection is hardly a good use of time when travelers could otherwise be emptying their wallets at local businesses or resorts.
Many travellers come to the mountains to get away from the hub-bub of the city traffic, yet Highway 93 or 95 at Radium becomes a parking lot worse than Calgarys Deerfoot during rush hour.
Whats the solution to these regular traffic jams? Im sure many travellers have commented that the current four-way stop would be a prime candidate for replacement by a roundabout.
A roundabout is similar to a traffic circle except it is larger and used as a highly efficient traffic control device rather than a traffic calming aid.
The Radium bottleneck has several features that lend itself to a large roundabout: very large space surrounding the intersection unoccupied by buildings, and mid-range peak traffic volumes. With a roundabout, there would be a reduced need to stop while going southbound, which would be beneficial for trucks and RVs
On the downside, perhaps the slight camber could be a problem in winter if ice built up, although probably less of a problem than the current hill presents.
Modern roundabouts also can reduce accidents because everyone is travelling in the same direction around them. They are widespread in many countries but a rarity in North America, although the province is installing them at some major interchanges.
Ive travelled with several North Americans on their first roundabout encounter and of course some people do freak out when confronted with poorly designed multi-lane roundabouts and dont know how to react. Edmonton has recently removed some older roundabouts that werent designed for the high flows they now experience. However, a well designed and signposted, single lane, 25-plus metre roundabout, would, I believe, be an effective solution for allowing traffic to flow more smoothly. Investing in infrastructure makes sense in the currently quieter economic climate.
As it turns out, this past Sunday the familiar yellow jackets at Radiums four-way stop eventually sensed a problem with the evening traffic buildup and popped out to provide relief and eventually clear the kilometre-long backlog. But do we really need to bring out the yellow coats on every long weekend as a reactive measure to the often predictable traffic buildup?
Maybe there has been discussion in the past regarding a roundabout at this location and I would be interested to see what moves the community can make to petition the province to investigate constructing a roundabout at this sometimes problematic intersection.
Editors note: the four-way stop in Radium is under the control of the Ministry of Transportation. With the consultation of the Village of Radium Hot Springs, the ministry has considered a number of different designs for the intersection. A timeline for if, how, and when such plans could be acted upon is undecided.