Roundabout getting the flick

What was supposed to slow traffic has increased driving risk: City

Josh Pennell
Published on May 13, 2014
A roundabout located at the intersection of Old Topsail Road and Mcloughlin Street in St. John’s failed to do the work it was intended for, slowing down drivers in the area. St. John’s City council will explore alternatives to the roundabout later this month. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It raised more than a few eyebrows when it was first put in on Old Topsail Road and apparently it increased the likelihood of accidents instead of making things safer

The roundabout was put in at the top of Old Topsail Road at the street’s intersection with Mcloughlan Street as part of a traffic-calming pilot project that the City of  St. John’s City started in 2012.

On Monday, council voted to look at taking the roundabout out and possibly replacing it with a three-way stop.

Coun. Bruce Tilley, who represents the area, says he’s heard complaints from area residents about the roundabout.

“The roundabout at this point is very unsafe with respect to drivers going east on Old Topsail Road,” Tilley told The Telegram following Monday’s regular council meeting.

The issue with the junction is twofold according to council. One issue is that the area is simply not cut out for a roundabout.

“Roundabouts are usually on bigger streets and wider streets,” Tilley said.

Coun. Art Puddister agreed, adding that another issue is that people generally don’t know how to use them properly.

“A lot of the problem is driver education, but I think what council has learned is that you really can’t retrofit intersections,” Puddister said.

When asked why council didn’t realize that people wouldn’t be used to them and that there wasn’t enough space for one, Tilley said it was the first time the city ever constructed one so there were several unknowns.

There were also speed cushions, upgrades to sidewalks and a speed meter put in at one end of the road to notify drivers of their speed as part of the traffic-calming measures.

Despite the failure of the roundabout, Tilley said the project wasn’t a loss.

“It was a good project. It’s still a good project.”

Puddister said he figures the roundabout cost between $45,000 and $50,000 to install and will cost less than $10,000 to take out.

Instead of just voting the roundabout out to bring in a three-way stop, council deferred the decision so that the consequences of putting in a three-way stop in the area could be looked at more closely.

The police and traffic committee will meet on May 22 and discuss the issue and then the matter will come before council.

Tilley said, either way, the roundabout simply won’t be getting the hook without something being put in its place.

Council just has to look at the most appropriate traffic-calming measure to replace it with.

Anybody going through roundabout withdrawal or looking for practice on how to use one need not worry.

Puddister said there’s one being constructed in the Kenmount Terrace area and another out around Paradise where the new construction areas allow for them to be built properly.