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Open house examines roundabout pros and cons
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staged an informative open house about the roundabout on Thursday, Feb. 7. About 75 people attended the afternoon session and probably about the same were at the session in the evening.
It appears that at least a few doubters were not convinced. However, the general mood seemed to be positive towards, or at least accepting of, the project.
Possible highlights of the meeting were two video presentations.
One showed the proposed roundabout at the junction of Highway 5 and the road to Wells Gray Park in three dimensions. The surrounding buildings, trees and landscape were shown in detail, and a number of vehicles within the roundabout gave some indication of size. The operator was able to swoop around the intersection as if in a helicopter and even go down to ground level and "drive" through the roundabout as if in a vehicle.
The second video presentation showed the proposed roundabout only from one elevated viewpoint but with traffic moving through the intersection. The representations included several large transport trucks and indicated that they would be able to negotiate the roundabout without difficulty.
The three-dimensional video presentation cost only about $2,000, said Dave Shibata, regional project manager with MOTI. They gave the contractor the roundabout’s dimensions from their CAD drawings plus photos of the surrounding buildings and so on, and the contractor did the rest.
The second video with the moving vehicles was done by another contractor and Shibata was not sure how much it cost.
The Ministry has modified its original plans after meeting with members of the heavy haul committee from the BC Trucking Association, Shibata said.
The changes basically meant relaxing the curves leading into the roundabout so that extra-long and/or extra-wide loads could go through the intersection without a configuration change.
They could have gone through before, he said, but the most extreme loads would likely have had to stop and remove one of the trucks pushing.
The proposed roundabout would be big, he pointed out. Total diameter would be 57 m (187 feet). The outside lane would be six m (19.8 ft) wide – and he pointed to two pylons set up on the floor to show the distance. The inside lane would be five m (16.5 feet) while the truck apron would add another 6.2 m (20.4 feet) for a large vehicle to manoeuvre through.
"The reality is it would not take up much more room than the present intersection," Shibata said. "We only had to buy a small piece in the southwest corner."
Clearwater needs access plan before roundabout
"There should be an overall plan for all the highway corridor in Clearwater before they start construction of the roundabout," said Kym Jim, one of the owners of Jim’s Food Market.
Going ahead without having a clear plan in place could mean backing ourselves into a corner, he said.
The intersection at the Wells Gray Inn has a history of more serious accidents and should have a higher priority than the one at the road to Wells Gray Park, Jim said.
"They are not dealing with the most problematic intersection," he said.
The store owner said the highways department had been inconsistent in its planning for Clearwater. Several years ago, when his family was first looking at opening their store, they were told they could have right-turn only access onto the highway, he said. Later, when they were committed to the project, they were told they couldn’t have access.
The roundabout could affect his business, he felt. Many travellers on the highway are not familiar with roundabouts. Rather than trying to figure out how to make the turn to get to the A&W or Shell, they will just continue on the highway.
Many truckers park on the highway while visiting his business. Once the roundabout is constructed, that likely will no longer be possible.
Jim said his big problem was with how public input was being measured.
He said that the project must have been in the works before the 2011 municipal elections, but none of the council members mentioned it during their campaigns.
"Who ran on this?" he asked.
Sherry Eland, transportation district manager for the Thompson-Nicola, attempted to answer the local business owner’s concerns.
The Ministry is working with District of Clearwater to develop a highway access plan for the corridor, she said.
The roundabout is just the first step, and she was confident it would integrate with the rest of the plan.
The roundabout should make it safer and easier for pedestrians from the high school and elsewhere to cross the highway, Eland said. This would include seniors on scooters.
MLA Terry Lake said he was happy with the response (turnout) for the open house. He said that, while some people who are opposed to the project are quite vocal he was also approached quietly by many who expressed support.
Thursday’s open house was held at the Legion Hall in Clearwater. The roundabout proposed for the intersection of Highway 5 and the road to Wells Gray Park has been a subject of much controversy in the community since it was announced in June of 2011 that the Ministry was looking at the option.
An open house on the subject was held in March of last year. Kym Jim hosted a public meeting in September to voice his concerns about the roundabout proposal.