Several drivers with eastern PEI trucking companies expressed frustration over the design of the province’s roundabouts at a public meeting held last Wednesday evening to present details of a traffic circle to be constructed at Routes 24 and 315 in Caledonia this spring.
The province’s Chief Engineer Stephen Yeo fielded a number of concerns ranging from excessive snow build-up to the fact PEI roundabouts don’t offer sufficient space for the big rigs to safely navigate them.
Sixty plus people attended the meeting at WellSpring Church at Peters Road. Among them were truckers, farmers, emergency personnel and family and friends of three victims who lost their lives at the intersection on Thanksgiving Day 2019.
When challenged Mr Yeo said the decision to construct the roundabout was set but added it could be open to tweaking minor details if warranted.
Scott Carver, with Thomas M Carver Ltd, was emphatic that roundabouts aren’t large enough to accommodate big trucks.
Mr Carver said it costs his company money, in rims and tires, each time one of his trucks navigates the tight circles.
Mr Carver said trucks travelling from the Peters Road business must pass through seven roundabouts before reaching the Confederation Bridge - double that when the trucks return to Southern Kings.
Mr Carver’s comments were echoed by Scott Annear, with Morley Annear Ltd in Montague. Neither was opposed to changes to the Caledonia intersection for safety sake but they agreed a disconnect existed between the province and the trucking industry.
“You should be able to do this to make it work,” Mr Annear insisted, followed by an invitation to Mr Yeo to ride along so he could see how the design should be improved.
“The problem is (the province) won’t listen to the people,” Mr Annear said.
Several residents living in the vicinity of the Caledonia intersection voiced concerns about potential noise from trucks braking, in particular those coming from the direction of Wood Islands.
In addressing this Mr Yeo said ample signage, including a speed indicator, is intended to slow the trucks and other traffic on the approach to the roundabout.
The suggestion of constructing an overpass rather than a roundabout was dismissed due to higher costs.
Mr Yeo said a 10-year review of the intersection was carried out and “it didn’t show a whole lot.”
However, he said, the Thanksgiving Day crash brought the issue to the province’s attention.
There is no official record of the number of fatalities, crashes or near misses at the intersection but area residents have repeatedly forwarded their concerns to the province.
As far back as the spring of 2006, following a fatality there, residents circulated a petition demanding changes to the intersection. It was presented to Transportation and Public Works of which Gail Shea was minister at the time with the province’s PC government.
Ms Shea responded in a letter stating “a number of measures have already been applied to this section of roadway. Signs have been installed regarding speed zone signs to Highway 24 on both sides; a new light standard was added; and rumble strips were installed as a speed control measure. I share your hope these measures will have a positive impact although I am sure you will agree any intersection can be dangerous if motorists do not obey appropriate traffic signs.
“Regarding your desire for the installation of a ‘dangerous intersection’ sign, I can advise I am not aware of any jurisdictions which employ such signs.”
Ms Shea went on to say she had instructed staff from the province’s Capital Projects Division to conduct a further review of the traffic signs at the intersection to identify ways that it could be further enhanced, if possible.
“I trust this response addresses your concern.”
Eight hundred, or more, vehicles travel on the Murray Harbour Road (north/south at the intersection) daily.
“The objective is to make everyone slow down,” Mr Yeo said, adding that the province looked at other possibilities as opposed to a roundabout. Among those ideas reviewed were the creation of a four-way stop; cutting down the approach from Wood Islands and creating a T-intersection where the roads would be staggered.
In total there are about 24 roundabouts across the province with the first being built in 2006 in Traveller’s Rest.
Mr Yeo said another problem area in the eastern end of the province was an intersection on the 48 Road. A roundabout was built there and there have been no fatalities since it was completed.
“Roundabouts reduce the severity of collisions,” he said. “They reduce the chance of t-bone and head-on collisions.”
The roundabout in Caledonia will be large enough to accommodate farm machinery, according to Mr Yeo. There will also be flashing amber lights, signage 500 feet from the roundabout to give motorists time to reduce speed.
The project, at an estimated cost of approximately $800,000 will be tendered this month. Construction will start the end of May or early June, depending on the weather and will take seven or eight weeks to complete.