St. Mary's High School is in the top right of this image.
WATERLOO REGION — Regional councillors have approved four more traffic roundabouts, despite public concerns about pedestrian safety.
Two of the new circles will have three lanes, partly around. They will become the biggest roundabouts built locally.
One new circle will be near St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener. It’s expected to serve more pedestrians than any other local roundabout.
“I remain convinced that these are safer for pedestrians,” Regional Chair Ken Seiling said in an interview.
“Certainly statistics from elsewhere and our own statistics show that there are fewer pedestrian accidents at the roundabouts than there are at signalized intersections.”
The roundabouts approved Tuesday are all at sites where intersection upgrades are required. They are:
In Kitchener, at Homer Watson Boulevard and Block Line Road. It’s planned for 2011, to accommodate a growing traffic levels. It will have three lanes on one side to handle southbound traffic on Homer Watson.
It will have extra-wide splitter islands to accommodate students from nearby St. Mary’s.
In Cambridge, at Hespeler Road and Queen Street in Hespeler. It’s planned for 2011 to accommodate growing traffic levels. It will have three lanes on one side to handle southbound traffic on Hespeler Road.
It will include two right-turn bypass lanes outside the circle.
In Cambridge, at Fountain Street and Dickie Settlement Road in Blair. It’s meant to serve the Conestoga College expansion and may be built next year. It will have two lanes in the circle and one right-turn bypass lane outside the circle.
In Kitchener, on Ira Needles Boulevard 242 metres south of University Avenue. It’s planned for next year, to help provide access to a giant shopping complex underway at the site.
Councillors approved the roundabout near St. Mary’s despite concerns raised by residents at public meetings about pedestrian safety.
Traffic planners assured councillors that students will be able to cross the roundabout more safely than they would cross at an expanded, signalized intersection. This is based partly on other countries that found improved pedestrian safety at roundabouts.
Traffic is required to yield to pedestrians at roundabouts. Pedestrians will be safer than at a signalized intersection because speeds at the circle will be slower, crossing distances will be shorter, and potential collision spots will be fewer, councillors were told.
Splitter islands for pedestrians will be built extra-wide. Special landscaping will deter students from taking shortcuts across the centre island. And students will be educated about how to use the roundabout safely.
“I have some doubts about it,” Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr said. He endorsed the circle regardless, asking that councillors review the final design before it’s built.
Politicians have made Waterloo Region the roundabout capital of Canada, installing 13 roundabouts on major commuter roads, as well as other roundabouts installed on smaller streets.
Collision records show regional roundabouts have more fender-benders but fewer injuries than signalized intersections. But roundabout collisions are falling and politicians say drivers are on a learning curve.
Seiling expects drivers will be even more experienced at roundabouts in 2011, when the biggest circles are planned for construction.