Once again, I am amazed at the way in which a crazy idea can magically become wonderful. Here we have the out-going mayor, and presumably most, if not all the previous council, and the Minister of Transportation, waxing poetic about the approval of a new roundabout on Sooke Road across from the entrance to Evergreen Mall. A while back, I wrote about the folly of spending $2 million for the new connector that goes from nowhere to nowhere, but this roundabout project is much goofier. With the cost of land purchases included this little bit of curvature in the road will cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
Roundabouts can be useful for dealing with intersections where there are traffic problems. The Transportation Plan, adopted in 2009, identifies a couple of intersections where roundabouts might be okay in the future when traffic volumes, particularly from the side street, are high enough to warrant the expense.
But wait – council has made a number of decisions in the past five-six years that have made any significant development of a new downtown unlikely, if not impossible. A modified vision for the downtown area, which contradicts parts of the Downtown Plan, is included in the OCP, but there is much evidence that this version also won’t ever see the light of day. So why would you build a roundabout at the north end of a new “Main Street” that isn’t likely to ever happen?
The mayor is quoted as saying the project “provides safer pedestrian travel.” Research shows roundabouts are actually one of the most dangerous forms of car/pedestrian interface. This research was shared with the previous council.
For much of the day, traffic moves through this area fairly quickly and easily, until it hits the lights at Church or Otter Point Road. With the new roundabout, traffic will be slowed down significantly in the middle before it reaches the lights. The 15-20 cars per hour that want to turn left out of the Evergreen Mall during rush hour will certainly have an easier time of it, but do we really need to spend more than a million dollars for that to happen?
I suppose there is a very tiny chance that the new mayor and council will come to their senses and stop the project before any more money gets wasted, but I’m not going to hold my breath.