By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 2 (March 27 2019)
Holyrood’s first roundabout is coming around, but the developer responsible for it says he has concerns.
For approximately two years, construction of the roundabout has been ongoing in Holyrood connecting the busy Conception Bay highway and the Holyrood access road, now known as Liam Hickey Drive. The idea behind it is to alleviate congestion and provide safe access to what the Town, and the developer, hopes will be a burgeoning business centre at what used to be the site of the famous rubber plant.
“With growth and development, there’s bound to be an increase in traffic flow in an area,” said Mayor Gary Goobie. “Apparently, the worst thing you can do in a heavy traffic area is bring traffic to a stop, in other words putting in a stoplight. We felt as though bringing this traffic increase to a complete stop like that could be problematic. After looking at various options, we figure the safest option was to keep traffic flowing, and that came in the form of a roundabout.”
Goobie admitted the initial responses to the roundabout were mixed. He said some people welcomed it, but others expressed concern, not surprising given that roundabouts are still a relatively new feature in Newfoundland.
However, now that some time has passed and residents have been given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the concept, Goobie said, public opinion seems to have swayed in a positive direction.
“I think everybody’s starting to catch on to it,” he said. “I spoke to some seniors who had questions about it at first. They were a little wary, but when I spoke to one lady the other day, she told me it was a ‘piece of cake.’”
However, the developer of the project, Gary Stafford, said it has not been a completely smooth ride since the project began.
Stafford noted that as of early March, the $1.4-million project was approximately 85 per cent complete, with only some small things to complete when the construction season allows for it. But the roundabout is safe and functional for drivers and pedestrians alike in the meantime, he said.
Still, safety is one of his top concerns, for a slightly different reason.
“New roundabouts, especially in old areas, people are going to be trying to figure out exactly how it works and what they’re supposed to do,” said Stafford. “There’s been a lot of chaos up there, with people going the wrong way and so forth, but it’s bound to happen.”
Stafford said he erected as much signage as he could in the area to help with the flow of traffic, and to keep people informed on the ways a roundabout is supposed to work.
Many of the signs, Stafford said, related to pedestrian crossings and the parts of the roundabout that are going to be used as sidewalks, which Stafford said are also safe for use by pedestrians.
“I put them up so people are aware of the sidewalks, and to give them a way to walk safely without being on the asphalt,” he said.
Not long after the signs were erected, however, a driver drove across one of the islands, knocking over a sign. The day after he fixed it, Stafford said, he showed up to the roundabout to find black garbage bags placed over the pedestrian signs.
“I went up to public works, and the supervisor there told me that the town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) advised them that the roundabout wasn’t finished and to cover all the signs up,” Stafford said. “Eighty-five per cent of the sidewalk is up there.”
Stafford added that the snow that had accumulated on the sidewalks was not being cleared by the town, resulting in some pedestrians walking instead on the asphalt.
To that, Mayor Goobie said the Town’s responsibilities for snow clearing along the sidewalk have to wait until the project is completed in its entirety.
As for covering the signs, Goobie said that was a safety precaution, given the incomplete status of the development. Stafford, however, feels the signs should be left up and visible to get people used to the new addition.
“If I have 85 per cent of the sidewalk in, the Town should be snow clearing that,” Stafford said, adding that it is perfectly fine for pedestrians to walk in the area when the roundabout is not yet finished. “It’s all designed to accommodate all of this,” he argued. “There’s only maybe 10 per cent of sidewalk not put in yet.”
Both Stafford and the Town are hoping to see the remainder of the work completed this year. At that point, Goobie said, the Town will uphold all its responsibilities, including clearing snow from the sidewalks.
Meanwhile, at least one councillor seems to be in favour of more signage in the area. At a council meeting in late February, councillor Sadie King brought up the roundabout and expressed concern there was no signage to alert drivers of an upcoming roundabout. She said most other roundabouts she’s seen has had such signage in place. Town CAO Gary Corbett said such signage will come in the spring.