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More locals speak out against roundabout project

More locals speak out against roundabout project at the corner of North and South Shore Roads

Since the printing of last week’s paper and the coverage of the public meeting hosted by the town, the Gazette has received a phone call from Hubert Crevels, a local resident, saying that in February he gathered 38 names on a petition against the planned roundabout for the intersection at North Shore Road and South Shore Road.

In the article, “Public meeting covers familiar ground,” it was incorrectly stated that Symon Whalvin, another local resident, was only the second person to speak out against the roundabout. Mayor Ross Forrest would like the Gazette to clarify that he actually stated that Whalvin was the second person to speak out at any of the three public forum meetings wherein this topic has been discussed.

The petition was handed into the town office on March 1, of this year. It stated that those who signed do not support a roundabout at the intersection and instead would prefer traffic lights, equipped with sensor activation, for those turning left onto South Shore Road. Crevels feels that if he had had more time, he would have been able to gather many more signatures.

After speaking with some of those on the list, including Crevels who instigated and set the petition in motion, the common theme or complaint seems to be that many drivers in North America do not seem to know how to use roundabouts. Crevels claims that he has seen people stop when there are no other vehicles while in a roundabout and adds that unlike a four-way-stop, where right-of-way is given to the vehicle on your left, within a roundabout the right-of-way is given to the person on your right; those already navigating the roundabout must yield to those entering.

Crevels is a retired civil engineer who worked out of Calgary for a number of years. He says he is also concerned with visibility when it comes to the roundabout, especially from the east end of the bridge.

Norris Nyghard also signed the petition, and his biggest complaint is the size of roundabouts in North America. He says he has travelled extensively, and that those in Edmonton, and a rather large one in Mexico, work because they are several lanes wide. Drivers must signal their intentions, whether to exit the roundabout or change lanes, and Nyghard says “the curvature of the circle is such that drivers can maintain their speed.”

He says that all the roundabouts in the valley, especially the one on at Berkey’s corner (the intersection of Somenos Road and Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan) are too small. He suggests that when the roundabout is put in that the town install a sign, with instructions on how to use the roundabout, in the centre.

Nyghard would have preferred traffic lights over the roundabout, but also says that there are better ways to slow down traffic, one of the reasons for the roundabout, and points to the effectiveness of speed bumps.

Karen Rudiger, another local resident, says she is more concerned about contaminated land under the abandoned gas station at the corner of North and South Shore Roads. She claims that pollutants are making their way underground to the river, and that is why the owner has not been able to sell the property. She wonders why the town has been able to purchase and use it, but Don Fern, the owner, is not able to sell it.

Rudiger also says she did not feel well informed about meetings that took place, and she feels that council has not looked at the long-term impact of this project.

Fern states that his property is listed under the contaminated site list in B.C., but says that whether or not it actually is contaminated has not yet been determined. He also states that the town has not talked to him about using his land, and that he assumes that the project will only be making use of the town’s property which comes to where the concrete and pavement meet on the corner of his property.

He is also not in support of the roundabout, and sites the same issues with the design of the roundabout and its relative straight-through traffic design coming east on South Shore Road. “If they do it as they have planned, the traffic will go straight through. Those on North Shore Road won’t have a chance. The roundabout should be created so everyone has a chance to get in, but if they do that, the trucks may have to stop.” In this case, it will be hard for the trucks to get going again, and it will create a back-up of trucks onto the bridge.

Forrest states that there are many reasons why lights are not an option for the intersection. “We don’t want to stop traffic unnecessarily,” he says, and adds that though this decision was in part made to help with the town’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, installing traffic lights would also come with maintenance costs.

“Statistics show that there are not a lot of accidents in roundabouts,” says Forrest. He says there have been eight at the intersection of South and North Shore Roads, and four at Darnell Road and South Shore Road.

According to data supplied by ICBC, since 2007 there has been a total of 62 accidents on Lake Cowichan roads, both casualty (where an individual was injured) and those involving just property damage. Four of these were at the intersection of South and North Shore Roads, and four of them were at the intersection between Darnell Road and South Shore Road.

Sgt. Dave Voller says he does not see an issue with the roundabout, and from his experience they work quite well. He expects that the roundabout will help to reduce wait times when turning left onto South Shore Road from North Shore. “As it is now, it’s almost quicker to turn around and go back up to Highway 18 to get back into town.”

Voller says that in terms of installing traffic lights, he would be concerned about the wait times for logging trucks and the weight of several loaded, waiting trucks being over the weight capacity of the bridge.

Forrest says he and council to create positive energy around the Revitalization Plans for the town, however he does feel it’s a little late to be complaining about the roundabout at this point. “We gave them lots of opportunities to speak. Then, when we were making the decision, they came with a petition.” He also points out that 13 of those who signed the petition did not live in Lake Cowichan.