Time for public consultation has passed, regional officials say
With an environmental assessment nearing finalization, representatives from the Region of Niagara say the proposed roundabout in St. Davids is past the time for public consultation.
And it could be under construction by 2025, an official said.
“Residents have had those opportunities through the public engagement we have currently had to this point,” Frank Trassone, the associate director of transportation for Niagara, told Niagara-on-the-Lake council Monday night.
The regional director of transportation services doubled down on the comment.
“We’ve had the (public information centres) number one and two, and I don’t believe a third one is required for this project,” Carolyn Ryall said.
“We’re in the midst of finalizing the documents around the recommendation for a roundabout based on a number of criteria that all options were considered against.”
The region has weighed the benefits of roundabouts carefully, Ryall said, and noted traffic circles are being installed across the region.
“We are actively putting roundabouts throughout all of Niagara Region and that’s something that we put a lot of consideration into as we move forward,” she said.
Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors unanimously voted Monday to voice their disapproval of a roundabout at Four Mile Creek and York roads in St. Davids, saying it would alter the character of the village and be more dangerous for pedestrians and children to use than a traffic signal.
But, with additions from Coun. Gary Burroughs, council also acknowledged that a lot of work had already been completed on the roundabout.
“I’m supportive of this motion because I think it’s important that even if it’s too late in the game, and is just going to be met with more explanations about why we can’t do much else, at least it’s one thing we can do to express what we’re hearing from our community,” Coun. Clare Cameron said.
Trassone said with the environmental assessment nearly complete, he expects detailed design to begin in 2023 and for construction to commence in 2025 or 2026.
Cameron continued to voice her disappointment that public opinion on the roundabout had already had its day.
“Perhaps some of what has happened in this regard is that a fair number of the community may not have realized that something called an environmental assessment was their one and only chance to weigh in,” Cameron said.
Coun. Allan Bisback echoed this sentiment.
“I’m cognizant that this is way down the process and there was opportunity for involvement and commentary by residents. Unfortunately, maybe they did not realize it,” Bisback said.
Ryall suggested NOTL council could express its displeasure to regional council.
Cameron noted that council spent more than an hour on Monday discussing ways to bring planning under control and better shape the character of NOTL’s five communities, saying it “just isn’t sitting right with me, the thought that there’s going to be a roundabout there.”
Echoing comments by Coun. Sandra O’Connor earlier, Cameron said the roundabout will “forever alter the centre of what remains of what was a historic village.”
Burroughs, though he was not in favour of the roundabout, didn’t entirely agree with the “character” argument.
“You only need to look in England (at) about every small village in the whole country to see that (roundabouts) fit in very well,” Burroughs said.
Cameron later commented that Niagara-on-the-Lake is not like every small village in England and asked Trassone if any other area in Niagara that had a well-known intersection like the Four Corners of St. Davids had roundabouts installed.
Trassone responded that similar roundabouts had been installed at old intersections in Smithville.
O’Connor presented the motion to express council's disapproval with the plan, noting a big concern for her was children walking to St. Davids Public School.
“I am concerned for the safety of the children who walk to school, crossing that intersection from Tannery Park. Anxiety is commonplace among walkers of all ages facing a crossing at a roundabout,” she said.
She wondered if children could only cross the street when there is a gap in traffic.
There is a roundabout on Niagara Stone Road directly across from St. Michael Catholic Elementary School.
Bisback asked town staff what issues the town has had with pedestrians and children walking across that roundabout but chief administrative officer Marnie Cluckie said she was unaware of any.
“The roundabout is liked. (Residents) seem to support the way it’s moving traffic and there are pedestrians that do cross at it,” director of operations Sheldon Randall added.
“And, again, we’re not aware of any bigger concerns that we’ve had from the school board or from our residents.”
Trassone said the region does extra work to ensure residents understand how to use roundabouts once they are installed.
“We generally have a presence when the roundabout is open to make sure that any pedestrians using it on day one completely understand the use.”
He said the region is looking at rolling out a safety program that includes education about proper roundabout use for pedestrians.