Tillsonburg Town Council listened to straight talk on a Highway #3/Vienna Road roundabout during its last open meeting.
Properly designed, they can be an enhancement, rather than a barrier to transportation and cut down on accidents at an intersection by between 30% and 40%. Beyond that, a 19-1 advantage in fatalities over standard signalized intersections is the most telling fact for staying on course with that option.
But its construction would include a scheduled 12-16-week closure of the vital north-south link represented by Vienna Road. Councillor Marty Klein displayed dogged determination for the project consultant to include a report – not necessarily a recommendation - on the option for a localized detour, rather than closure in the pre-construction report, but he would eventually hit a dead end.
“We’re not talking the same language,” stated Klein, in response to Mayor John Lessif’s intercession.
“And it sounds like we’re not going to,” rejoined Lessif.
Dan Green, Consultant Project Manager; and Frank Hochstenbach, MTO, attended the meeting at the request of council, with Green taking lead on the presentation.
He outlined how the roundabout’s design would include size provisions adequate for Siemen’s wind turbine blade transportation (although signs may have to be moved); and for the WB20, the largest truck on the road.
There is also room within design provisions for farm equipment, said Green.
Councillor Klein noted later in the discussion that combine wheelbases may be comparable to tractors’, but headers are wider, and whether that was taken into consideration?
“Yes,” Green stated simply. Farmers are excellent drivers, he continued, and as long as the space is there, “There hasn’t been an issue.”
Roundabout design can incorporate any size traffic, said Green. But if there is an issue, it’s with construction.
“They are hard to construct, especially at existing intersections with existing traffic.”
Project planning would keep traffic flowing along Highway #3 for the majority of the project’s scheduled 12-16-week duration, but Vienna Road would be closed during that time period.
Stage I would see construction begin on the south side, with traffic flowing north; Stage II the reverse; Stage III setting the inner circle with entry and exiting maintained for eastbound traffic; Stage IV move eastbound traffic through the roundabout while completing the inner curb and gutter; and Stage V completing island medians, which would require closing Highway #3 at night for curb and gutter work.
“We think it’s going to be two nights of work,” said Green.
The sixth and final stage would be completing paving, a process requiring eastbound closure, westbound closure and finally, full closure.
In response to questioning by Deputy Mayor Mark Renaud, Green noted how roughly two years ago, the MTO passed a regulation requiring investigating whether a roundabout would be appropriate for any future intersection construction. The major reason is a simple one, stated Green, namely statistics indicating that for every 19 motorists killed at a signalized intersection, only one is killed at a roundabout.
“They save lives,” he said, an assertion receiving support later in the discussion from Councillor Mel Getty, quoting the ‘safety value’ of a one versus 19 ratio.
“That’s a good reason to have it.”
Green answered other issues raised by members of council, including who would be responsible for maintenance (the MTO); speeds through a roundabout (roughly 40 kilometres/per/hour upon entry and a circulatory speed of roughly 28 KPH); and timeframe (“as soon as this summer.”)
The most contentious issue, generating the most spirited and lengthy discussion however, was Councillor Klein’s request to include at least consideration of a localized detour in the planning process.
Klein noted Vienna Road is a major connecting link both from Tillsonburg to Bayham and Port Burwell, and vice versa, and alternatives end up being ‘a long way around.’ In addition, Klein stated planned construction closures often tend to be longer “in reality.”
In response to Klein’s question whether a localized detour had been contemplated, Green conceded that north/south traffic was ‘slightly lower’ than east/west, but explained creating an onsite detour could potentially add a month to construction, along with considerable expense, making a roundabout less attractive compared to a contemporary signaled intersection.
“I understand the issue of the cost,” said Klein, going on to indicate there could be a cost to businesspeople in Tillsonburg, Project Ojibwa in Port Burwell, and as a result of extended detour times for police or EMS personnel servicing Vienna, Straffordville or factories on or across Highway #3.
‘We can argue,’ stated Klein, that the implications for the community, the business community, those in northern Bayham and police and EMS “is substantial.”
The detour plan is the one included in the existing six-stage construction plan, responded Green, noting 17 people attending an earlier advertised public meeting did not raise concerns.
Klein continued, unsuccessfully, to elicit a commitment to include a localized detour plan in the project’s planning documents, to the point Mayor Lessif interceded, with the opinion council could participate in additional discussion, should that be required.
“Hopefully you will go back and as you have indicated, take a look,” Lessif concluded in a comment directed toward Green and Hochstenbach.
Outside council chambers, Hochstenbach indicated no further public meetings are planned at this point, but council’s concerns had been heard and duly noted.