Improvement to highway safety carries stiff price tag
Prince Edward Islanders have adapted to roundabouts with a fervour normally reserved for the first feed of lobsters or fresh strawberries. Our newest one, at Upton Road in Charlottetown where it intersects with the bypass highway, opened on Thursday.
It is not that long ago there was only one in the province and it was in Travellers Rest. But over the past few years, as quickly as the engineers could draw them up and the blacktop could be laid, a number of new ones have appeared. In Charlottetown, there are two on Riverside Drive, one where Belvedere Avenue and one of UPEI’s entrances meet, another at the Allen Street/Mount Edward Road intersection and one at the entrance to the Charlottetown Airport.
City officials are in the early planning stages of a large roundabout at the confusing location where several streets intersect near Vogue Optical. And, there’s an outside chance one could be constructed at what’s called the Ken’s Corner intersection.
Outside the city, in addition to the one in Travellers Rest, new roundabouts have popped up like crop circles in Slemon Park, O’Leary and Poole’s Corner near Montague. In all of the above locations the roundabouts have addressed pressing highway safety issues. For example, before the roundabouts were built, motorists trying to get onto Riverside Drive from side streets were literally taking their life, and the lives of others, in their hands. The O’Leary and Poole’s Corner intersections had proved deadly through the years.
Roundabouts are not only good for safety, they also improve the flow of traffic and reduce the amount of time vehicles spend idling, thereby helping the environment.
But it needs to be observed that roundabouts come with hefty price tags — they don’t fall gently into place like manna from heaven. The new one on Upton Road cost $1.3 million. Highway officials say it will greatly improve the traffic flow at the interection that handles approximately 13,000 drivers a day.
In spite of that volume of traffic, it’s debatable whether a million dollars needed to be spent there. After all, it was a very straightforward T intersection with good sight lines in either direction. It certainly had its peak hours of high traffic volume, but for most of the day it was a very manageable intersection.
At any rate, it’s now a reality and will certainly help with the flow of traffic. But $1.3 million is a lot of public money. Lets hope it was a wise investment.
Tackling the curve
Another costly provincial highway initiative, but one everyone agrees is much needed, will see the sharp curve in the Trans-Canada Highway in Tryon made straighter and safer. Work is scheduled to start next month on the 1.6-km stretch of highway. The work will cost $1.75 million.
The curve radius of that stretch of the road is about 270-280 metres, which doesn’t meet current national safety guidelines. This will be improved to a 600-metre radius curve.
The section of the highway has seen a number of accidents through the years. Said Darrell Evans, design manager with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal: “We’ve had instances where we’ve replaced a guard rail on that curve and then the next week it was damaged due to a truck flipped over, so it’s a bad curve.”
The work even has the blessing of the Tryon United Baptist Church. The church is in the way of the new highway plan but the congregation has agreed to be moved to a nearby location to accommodate the highway improvement.