A roundabout way to improve road safety

Construction began last week on a surprisingly controversial trafficroundabout at the intersection of St. Joseph and Jeanne D’Arc Blvd. inOrleans.

 

Construction began last week on a surprisingly controversial traffic roundabout at the intersection of St. Joseph and Jeanne D’Arc Blvd. in Orleans.

 

Everyone seems to have not only an opinion for or against, but a passionate conviction. The Heart of Orleans BIA is foursquare behind the project, but several individual business owners have publicly come out against it.

 

Some of the biggest opponents of the roundabout seem to be among those who live in the neighbourhood.

 

Coun. Bob Monette, who represents the area, voted against the installation, along with fellow east-enders Rob Jellett and Michel Bellemare. They were out-voted by council at large.


While it’s perhaps strange to see NIMBYism in reaction to safety and street beautification projects, it also seems perverse that the councillors who don’t represent the area can band together and impose the change over the objections of those who do.


The roundabout exposes another potential fault line in our governance, specifically in the way we’re paying for municipal infrastructure these days. Because it’s being funded from the federal stimulus program, the roundabout and related improvements have to be completed by March of 2011. Otherwise, the city could end up with the remainder of the $2.5-million tab.


Construction is scheduled to be completed well ahead of this deadline, in November, but an early blast of winter weather, hardly uncommon, could play havoc with the plan, which is already slightly behind schedule. (Work was originally supposed to begin last month).


The City of Ottawa is keen to add more to the dozen or so roundabouts already in place, and seems sold on their advantages.


Traffic is expected to both slow down and flow better, improving safety. The intersection of St. Joseph and Jeanne D’Arc, while it doesn’t make the city’s list of the most dangerous in town, was still the site of 65 accidents between 2005 and 2008. The BIA cites studies crediting roundabouts with a 30 per cent decrease in accidents and a 70 per cent decline in injuries. The roundabout is also expected to reduce vehicle emissions by reducing the amount of time drivers spend idling at red lights.


Still, people naturally resist change, and there will likely be some traffic confusion during the adjustment period, as motorists get used to merging into the circle, yielding to traffic already circling, etc.


Detractors worry traffic congestion will worsen in the area even after that. We’ll soon see.

 
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