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Roundabout art sparks safety debate in Paradise

By Mark Squibb/November 18, 2022

A monument to Octagon Castle, perched atop the Topsail Road roundabout near McNamara Drive in Paradise, has been a cause for discussion in the council chambers for two meetings in a row now.

“I had asked to have this matter brought to the Infrastructure and Engineering committee a while back to discuss, after having a couple of residents reach out with their concerns about crosswalk safety,” said councillor Glen Carew during the November 1 public meeting. “As a bicyclist, I have experienced a near miss myself there at that crosswalk.”

Carew had two questions for council, one of which he said was put to him by a resident, regarding crosswalk safety and whether it may be impeded by the castle.

“The one for me is, does Infrastructure and Engineering know of any precedent in any other jurisdiction where there’s an established enhancement to a roundabout crosswalk either passive or active?” asked Carew.

Committee chairperson Deborah Quilty said she was “not 100 percent sure,” but would bring the question to the next committee meeting and ask staff.

Carew’s next question was a little more to the point.

Does Infrastructure and Engineering feel that the new roundabout feature is contributing to driver distraction and compounding the issue?” he asked.

Mayor Dan Bobbett allowed it was an “open-ended question,” and Quilty again said the matter will be put on the next committee agenda for further discussion.

Though Quilty was not ready to comment on the matter, councillor Elizabeth Laurie was quick to come to the roundabout feature’s defense.

“That was a roundabout feature that wasn’t just put there, for lack of better words, willy-nilly, by us here on council,” said Laurie. “We actually had traffic consultants and engineers involved in that. So, that is a safe roundabout feature that was put there with a lot of engineering advice and practises to make sure that that is a safe feature. I just want to put that out there, that we did our due diligence by making sure that that was an appropriate feature for that roundabout.”

Councillor Patrick Martin also expressed some concerns with crosswalk safety at the roundabout.

“I have brought this to committee as well, due to concerns from residents and some firsthand experience of issues myself,” said Martin. “I brought along what I thought would help in the area… We’re still actively researching it, and we did have an extensive discussion. It’s not dead in the water by no means, because I have high concerns as well, same as councillor Carew on this one.”

Martin later clarified his comments by saying he did not believe the castle itself poses a safety risk.

“I have no objection to the structure that we have placed in the roundabout, because as councillor Laurie has said, it was designed properly,” said Martin. “And there are many structures in roundabouts across North America. The one up by the airport has a cellar in the middle of it. I was talking more along the line of the crosswalks.

Quilty reiterated Laurie’s comments, saying that council had engineers in to quell council’s fears about safety.

“But having said that, we did have a lengthy discussion at our last Engineering meeting, and as councillor Martin has said, it’s not dead in the water,” said Quilty.

The monument is meant to be a tribute to the former Octagon shaped hotel which burned to the ground in 1915 and had served as a landmark and source of gossip and speculation in its day due to the eccentric personality of its owner.

The skeletal structure that has been erected has turned more than a few heads and sparked speculation on social media and in coffee shops as to what it is supposed to be, with guesses ranging from a giant hard boiled egg holder to an alien spaceship.

There was so much chatter that council, during a February meeting, took a few moments remind folks the structure was a monument to Octagon Castle, that it was perfectly safe, and, whenever it was said and done, would cost around $190,000, cost-shared with the federal government at a 50/50 ratio.

The matter came up once again during this week’s meeting of council, as councillor Larry Vaters, representing the Engineering committee in Quilty’s absence, took a few moments to address the questions that had been raised by Carew.

“The first question was does Infrastructure and Engineering know of any precedent in any other jurisdiction where there’s a significant enhancement to a roundabout crosswalk either passive or active?’ and your Worship, staff have identified a roundabout in New Brunswick that has a piece of public art in it similar to the one we have here,” said Vaters. “It is at the intersection of several roads, such that it has five exits and entrances, while ours has four. The crosswalks are arranged like ours in accordance with the (national) guidance, and two of the five crosswalks have rapid flashing beacons located on them. While staff do not have details yet on the pedestrian or traffic counts or collision history to support the placement of rapid flashing beacons, they’ve also reached out to Harbour Side Traffic Consultants, who designed our roundabout, to see if they are aware of any different designs, as one of their employees was one of the authors of (the national) roundabout design guidelines and is also well connected in the industry.”

As to Carew’s second question – Does the committee feel the feature is contributing to driver distraction – the answer was a little more succinct.

“Staff does not feel that the roundabout feature is contributing to driver distractions — safety was a key consideration of the design process and is the basis of the design guidelines,” said Vaters. “Harbourside Traffic Consultants was a part of the design team to make sure it was designed for safety.”

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