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Residents near a proposed new roundabout in Grand River have wasted no time voicing their concerns.
Close to 40 people attended a meeting Wednesday at the Tyne Valley Fire Hall to hear provincial planners explain the project and to take questions.
Many residents weren’t sold on the idea of a traffic circle and felt a responsibility to voice opposition.
Stephen Yeo, chief engineer, started his slide show in the fire hall around 7 p.m. but had a hard time making it past the roundabout's proposed layout before fielding questions.
The province says the roundabout will improve the intersection of the Old Grand River Road, now a short gravel section that forms a “T” with Route 131, which in turn joins Route 12.
“It’s a good example of a poor intersection,” said Yeo.
It would never be built today, he added.
No one at the meeting suggested leaving the area as it is.
One man said his daughter-in-law was nearly killed near the intersection, he left before the Journal Pioneer could learn his name or ask more.
Between 1,200 and 1,300 vehicles a day negotiate a yield sign where Route 12 changes to Route 131 heading toward Tyne Valley. Only about 300 take the turn toward Bayside.
"We got to worry about our kids and grandchildren every time they roll thorugh there expecting a head-on collision. It's just insane the way it's set up there now," said Paul Gallant from Bayside.
Gallant added it's crucial to fix it sooner rather than later.
“Pretty near every day you can hear tires squealing,” said Donald MacKinnon.
He and his wife own the land the roundabout is to be built on.
It will be built in the triangle land area lopped off back in the 1960s, to create the current intersection.
MacKinnon, a retired dairy farmer, said it got harder every year to get his 40 cows across the road for milking time as the amount of traffic increased.
Nathan DesRoches’s wife and three children walk the roads there daily. They just built their "forever home" next to the proposed construction. He's concerned the traffic circle won't help control traffic speeds - not after he saw a tractor trailer drive straight through the roundabout in Travellers Rest only to end up in a field.
“I’m sorry, sir, but this is the country. You’re going to get fast drivers wherever. I’m going to see people going through that roundabout. I’m going to see them fly right through it. There’s stupid drivers everywhere,” said DesRoches.
Gordon Poirier's family walks the area every day too. He’s a believer in roundabouts, just not for that area, he said.
"Trying to take children… and walk around the roundabout pushing a stroller with kids to try to get to church on Sunday? Not very safe,” said the grandfather.
Yeo explained the rural roundabout will have extra-wide crushed-asphalt shoulders that will be plowed in the winter. To further address pedestrian safety, Yeo volunteered to add a walking and bike lane to the edges of the new construction.
But that wasn’t Poirier’s only concern.
"Tell me then how a tractor trailer is going to make a turn around here,” Poirier approached the screen and traced the route around the roundabout, “Go this way, go up there,” he pointed to spot just outside the circle, “and back their trailer into our driveway for our business.”
The province’s diagram displayed an awkward angle between the road and the driveway.
Yeo said he'd take Poirier’s concerns back to the drawing board. The engineer planned to run a computer simulation to help fix the issue.
The public proposed multiple combinations of stop signs, turn lanes and elevation changes, but Yeo and the province is certain a traffic circle would be the best option to slow traffic down from all directions.
“We’ve built these in many places across the Island. They do cost a little more money initially, but in the long term, they’re a huge benefit for safety and movement of traffic,” said Yeo. “It works.”
Though he stayed firm in his decision for a roundabout Yeo wanted to assure the public their concerns would be heard on the drafting table.
“I don’t mind coming back to show you what we learned and what we changed,” he said. “We’ll take into account the entranceways and tractor trailer movements to see if we can fix that somehow. That’ll be good for all.”
After the plans are finalized, the project will go to tender.
Errol Thompson runs Thompson Backhoeing and Trucking. He lives next door to Poirier so his laneway will be rebuilt as well.
“It’s all going to work out,” he said. “The most important thing is not to panic.”