St. Davids project will have dedicated pedestrian crosswalk, consultant says
The planned St. Davids roundabout will have a dedicated pedestrian crosswalk, opportunities for St. Davids' history to be celebrated and will make the intersection safer than any alternative, a consultant for the region says.
“They are definitely safer and safer for everyone, not just drivers but for pedestrians and cyclists as well,” Phil Weber, senior project manager and traffic engineer from CIMA+, said in an interview Monday.
Weber has a master's degree in transportation engineering, has been involved in the design and construction of more than 200 roundabouts across North America and teaches courses on their implementation.
And Maged Elmadhoon, transportation manager for the Region of Niagara, said local businesses will be consulted more directly as the project progresses to its detailed design phase at the end of the year.
He said the intersection was marked as needing traffic improvements in 2017 by the region’s transportation master plan in order to address current traffic concerns and accommodate future growth in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Weber said the roundabout will be more efficient and safer than any alternative, saying views on traffic signal installations can be incorrect.
“We think with traffic signals, ‘Oh, we just look at the existing intersection and we slap up a few signal poles and we’re done, right?’ ” Weber said.
“That’s not the case at all with signals. With signals, what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to widen the whole intersection out to add left turn lanes, we’re gonna have to put in medians.”
He said traffic signals would require a similar amount of land expropriation as the roundabout.
He also emphasized there’s no doubt the roundabout will be the safer alternative – and laid out several reasons why.
“The big one is that traffic is moving more slowly,” he said.
Weber also stressed there are fewer points of contact for pedestrians and vehicles, noting most pedestrian and vehicle collisions at intersections occur when drivers are making left- or right-hand turns.
He said the one thing that makes an intersection with traffic signals safer for pedestrians is the inclusion of a signalled crosswalk.
But Elmadhoon said this roundabout will “absolutely” have a specialized pedestrian crosswalk installed to accommodate local schoolchildren and other pedestrians.
“We will put it in. It will be there in that roundabout,” Elmadhoon said.
He said the exact design of the pedestrian crosswalk will be determined at a later date but further stressed its inclusion is guaranteed.
Regarding residents' concerns that a roundabout will irrevocably change the character of St. Davids' historic centre, Elmadhoon said a roundabout is only a traffic calming feature and the character of the “Four Corners” can encompass it.
“Whether you put a traffic signal, whether you keep it as a four-way stop or whether you put in a roundabout, at the end of the day it’s only a traffic control measure in order to ensure that the intersection is performing safe and to the expected level of service.”
He said understanding and studying the character of St. Davids has been a core aspect of the project.
“We have taken this from day one, even in our notice of commencement. We acknowledge that this has a certain character,” he said.
“That’s why there is another section in the environmental report dealing with urban design and landscaping and trying to see how we can keep the character of the intersection, something to reflect the history.”
The environmental assessment report is expected to be released in the next several months. Afterward, there will be a 30-day public review and commenting period hosted by the region, Elmadhoon said.
Weber sees the roundabout as a chance to strengthen the character of St. Davids.
“There is an opportunity there to add to the character of the village by putting something in the centre of the roundabout that can enhance the village itself,” he said.
“Some public art in the middle or even at the very least some landscaping that can add to the village character.”
Weber said the team has put together a memo for the region that contains suggestions for enhancing the roundabout as a cultural feature and said residents and the town will have the chance to add their input.
Another upgrade the region plans on bringing to the intersection is improved infrastructure for cyclists in the area.
Weber said the installation of bike tracks along York and Four Mile Creek roads is the reason why on-street parking is being removed close to the intersection.
“It’s a matter of fitting in what we can. I mean, it’s a very narrow right-of-way,” he said.
“It’s all part of the region’s efforts to make everything more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly.”
A cycle track is a bike lane adjacent to the sidewalk but not on the road itself.
The team also addressed concerns raised by some residents that agricultural equipment and transport trucks would not be able to navigate the roundabout.
Weber said the roundabout is being designed with these vehicles in mind, noting there have been no issues with roundabouts and large vehicles at other locations in Niagara.
“Around the centre island there’s something called a truck apron. That’s a pretty common feature of single-lane roundabouts,” he said.
The apron allows large vehicles' rear wheels to track across the sides of the roundabout, he said.
The current project cost estimate is about $4 million.
“That includes the roundabout, the cycle tracks, the widened sidewalks, utility relocates and everything,” Weber said.
He said the estimated cost is preliminary and subject to change.
One cost not included is the expropriation of land required to widen the intersection and accommodate the roundabout. There are no current estimates for that cost.
Expropriation and the impact the roundabout will have on local businesses is something the region considers carefully during the detailed design phase, Elmadhoon said.
Weber said a traffic signal and roundabout result in similar levels of expropriation.
“The region's real estate staff will be in contact to discuss the level of impact, disturbance, damage, injurious affections, business loss — anything,” Elmadhoon said.
If things go smoothly, Elmadhoon said detailed design could begin by the end of the year.
He pushed back against calls for traffic to be routed off York and Four Mile Creek roads.
“These are regional roads and regional roads are designed to move traffic and move people and goods,” he said.
“The intent of these roads are to move traffic. There isn’t any study that says we need to move traffic away.”
Elmadhoon said leaving the intersection as it is is not “on the table” and a roundabout is the recommendation provided in the environmental assessment study.
“The proposed roundabout will create slow and uniform traffic speeds with no congestion well into the long future horizon. In addition, the roundabout will be safer through the elimination of red light running and angle collisions,” he said in an email to The Lake Report.