By Kirk Starratt
For some people, it’s enough to drive them around in circles, literally and figuratively.
For others, more than a year after the roundabout on Commercial Street in New Minas opened to the public, they’ve come to accept the change and even recognize positive benefits.
“We have had a few accidents at the roundabout and these were minor when compared to the lighted intersections on Commercial Street,” said New Minas Fire Chief James Redmond.
He likes the roundabout and most people he’s talked to about it seem to agree. For example, where else on Commercial Street can you legally make a 360-degree turn? If he happens to forget something, he can turn around and go back much easier.
He has saw the occasional person become confused by the traffic circle but not as many as he expected.
“I anticipated when they put it in people having problems with it until they got use to it but I haven’t seen it,” Redmond said. “It simplifies things in a lot of ways.”
If he could make one improvement, Redmond would like to see directional arrows painted on the asphalt so motorists have a better indication which lane their supposed to be in.
M&G Cab manager Mary-Ann Saltzman, who occasionally drives a taxi, said there wasn’t enough public education before the roundabout opened. She has witnessed several drivers failing to yield the right-of-way. Saltzman once saw a person turn left into the circle instead of right, realize their mistake and drive over a concrete curb to correct the error.
“We see all kinds of things,” Saltzman said. “It’s been over a year and you still have people going backwards around it.”
Saltzman said she finds the mound of earth in the centre of the roundabout too high. Motorists have to approach very slowly because they can’t see the traffic on the other side and there is no guarantee someone won’t be coming around in the wrong direction. Saltzman said she thinks collector roads, perhaps one to the north and one to the south, would have done more to address the traffic problem on Commercial Street.
Village commission chairman Dave Chaulk said his main concern with the roundabout is not enough people know how to use it. Although he hasn’t had any issues with it, Chaulk said he finds you have to pay close attention to what other drivers are doing.
“I’ve called it the roundabout to nowhere,” Chaulk said. “You go around in a circle to go in a straight line.”
The reasons for the project were to prepare for future growth and the proposed Highway 101 interchange at Granite Drive. Chaulk said the roundabout would be a good addition when this happens but, until that time, the project was unnecessary.
Some people have speculated the roundabout had something to do with Kent Co-op going out of business but board chairman Peter Hough doesn’t see it that way. There was a negative impact during construction but not after the traffic circle opened, he said. It took people a while to figure out how to use it, he added, but once they learned, the roundabout actually made it easier to get in and out of the store.
Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal New Minas area manager Basil Pitts said it hasn’t received many complaints.
“I think the biggest thing is getting use to the concept,” he said.
There was some concern expressed in the spring about getting permanent lighting operational and about the angle of the temporary lights. Moving a utility pole in the middle of the far right eastbound lane moved took longer than anticipated.
Pitts said the department would like to see some shrubs or bushes planted on the island in the middle of the roundabout as getting mowing equipment in has proven to be a challenge.
Drivers must yield to traffic to their left before entering the roundabout and the island helps keep driver attention focused in this direction. It also helps take away some of the glare from vehicle headlights on the other side at night.
Pitts said the greatest safety benefit of the roundabout is the reduction of potential conflict or collision points for vehicles and pedestrians compared to traditional intersections.
- The New Minas roundabout construction contract for $2,521,600 was awarded to Dexter Constriction Sept. 9, 2010.
- The roundabout opened Nov. 30, 2010.
- Old Dyke Road to the north was upgraded as part of the project and Granite Drive was realigned to the south.
- A new Highway 101 interchange is proposed to connect into Granite Drive. At that time, the plan is to install another roundabout between Commercial Street and Highway 101 to tie-in streets and other access points. Additional roundabouts are planned to direct traffic through the on-ramps and exits.
- Since there are no T-intersections in a roundabout, the chance of a collision is reduced dramatically. Because traffic isn’t stopped, it’s considered better for the environment since there is less idling.
- A roundabout accommodates traffic in a circular flow, in a counter-clockwise direction around a central island. The significant operational feature that distinguishes the roundabout from a rotary is that traffic must yield on entry to traffic already within the roundabout. Drivers enter the circle when a safe gap in traffic is available.
- The department has a free information booklet on roundabouts for people with questions. They are available at the reception desk at the department’s office on Crescent Avenue, New Minas. Anyone with complaints, comments or suggestions can call 679-4308.