BY OLE HAMMARLUND
We all know how roundaboutis strikes: This dangerous virus only strikes a sitting MLA of the governing party. Suddenly the politician is a little weak in the knees, feeling the need for more local support. The infection is spread by a few hapless drunk drivers ignoring stop signs on back roads and soon the virus spreads to the department of transportation as it is buzzing with feverish activity such as traffic flow studies and plan A, B or C.
Usual antibodies such as common sense, stop signs and rumble strips are rendered helpless against a severe case of roundaboutis, that can only be cured by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on bulldozers. The final result is, of course, a roundabout.
The medical community is divided on how exactly roundaboutis started on P.E.I. I am no doctor, but my personal theory is that decades ago a P.E.I. politician passed through the roundabout at Port Elgin, N.B., and got infected with the idea that roundabouts could solve all traffic problems on P.E.I.
What we do know is that a similar roundabout appeared outside Summerside some years later. Little did the Islanders know then how roundaboutis would infect every riding of P.E.I.
We have driven to our cottage in Launching for over 40 years, taking the 48 Road that crosses the Baldwin Road. There was always a stop sign there, but more to the point there were never any cars there. A year ago, the community there got hit with roundaboutis and we now have an excellent example of the huge efforts and expense of government to keep roundaboutis under control.
The only problem is that despite all the efforts and expense, the roundaboutis problem just seems to get worse. The Cornwall bypass already has five and more are planned.
But the bypass with all its roundabouts has definite tourist potential. I think our grandchildren will like it, especially the two on Riverside Drive that are just a few hundred feet apart. They are just like a mini go-cart course. Fun for drivers, except for truckers whose tall cargo loads keep toppling.
Recently in Cornwall, I decided to take the back roads to town via the Cornwall Road. This is a sleepy back road leading from the edges of Cornwall suburbia to East Wiltshire suburbia through pleasant farmland. Hardly a car to be seen on this road.
I was shocked as I approached the bypass now under construction. A large bridge and fill operation to create an underpass for Cornwall Road and, I could not believe my eyes, not one but two roundabouts.
Clearly this is a whole new case of roundaboutis, a dangerous mutation with no prior symptoms like a week kneed politician. This double roundabout came out of nowhere and apparently for no reason.
Cornwall Road seems to me could have just been terminated on either side of the by-pass and it would have taken a few years before anyone noticed. That would have saved the huge expense of the bridge overpass. Remember the government insisted that a new bypass route be chosen to avoid an expensive bridge over North River. Well, here is the bridge anyway. Now, over or underpasses are a great feature for traffic flow. The kind of solution needed where the bypass crosses say Route 2 or Brackley Pt. Road, but here?
I have driven across North America, and driven off thousands of ramps from overpasses, but I have never seen them end in a roundabout. A simple stop sign seems to suffice in most places.
Seems to me that a few people in government must be affected by roundaboutis, and they should be re-assigned to a more appropriate job. For instance, designing playgrounds with carousels and tricycle paths would use their talents to the fullest. Roundaboutis has got to be stopped, but clearly building roundabouts is the least effective and most expensive solution.
- Ole Hammarlund is an architect who loves to drive the P.E.I. back roads, especially the ones the government has left alone. He can be reached at email@example.com.