By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A new traffic roundabout at the intersection of Queen’s Line and Merlin Road is a go.
Chatham-Kent council approved the $2.1-million project in a 13 to 3 vote at its regular council meeting March 7.
The new roundabout will be the largest of its kind within the municipality. There are two smaller ones located in Chatham.
However, council’s decision isn’t sitting well with some.
According to West Kent Coun. Mark Authier, he received 23 e-mails from local residents against the roundabout.
“One of my pet peeves here is that we did a survey and a large amount of people who did the survey did not want this. So I guess we’re just going to throw that out the window,” Authier stated, adding he received “zero” support for it.
An online Let’s Talk Chatham-Kent survey on the matter was conducted in December, with the number one concern listed as to whether big trucks and farm equipment can safely negotiate the roundabout.
Authier also expressed concern that the “older population” may have difficulty adapting to the new technology.
Roundabouts, widely utilized in Europe and Western Canada, are relatively new to Chatham-Kent.
According to an engineering report, vehicles traversing the busy intersection at Queen’s Line tend to be travelling a higher than normal rate of speed with some eastbound vehicles manoeuvring to pass on the right.
The move puts oncoming traffic turning right or left in danger.
The municipality studied the intersection in 2018, at which time it was recommended either a traffic circle be built, or enhanced left turn lights with a traffic light be installed.
West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan said she is in support of the roundabout as long as it can accommodate the size and flow of large agricultural machinery, such as combines.
“We need to trust the experts around safety,” said Harrigan, as long as we are “really confident” the roundabout can support the agricultural industry.
Engineering technologist Mark Ceppi said the design of the roundabout allows for large vehicles to use the roundabout in the event of an emergency detour from the Highway 401.
“The design proposed in the consultant’s report does consider those factors,” Ceppi told council.
Engineering director Chris Thibert said the approval marks a “milestone” for Chatham-Kent, adding the roundabout is a safer option for vehicles once people become accustomed to it.
“One of the major benefits of the roundabout is that it eliminates a lot of crossing type collisions,” Thibert said, such as the ones at the intersection created by drivers passing on the right.
Each approach separates traffic, and as you enter, all traffic inside the circle is travelling in the same direction,” Thibert explained. “It eliminates conflict points, replacing the need for left turning lanes.
Thomas Kelly, general manager of infrastructure and engineering, said the new design is a safer option than a traffic light.
“One of the real benefits of the roundabout is the safety component,” Kelly explained, noting the solution is also more cost effective than putting up traffic lights.
Kelly did point out that because the roundabout technology is new, education – perhaps through videos – will be made available so the public can learn how to use the roundabout.