Roundabouts, like this one in Grand Canyon National Park, are a popular means of keeping traffic moving while controlling its speed all over the world, and Campbell River is about to get its first at the entrance to the Maritime Heritage Centre despite concerns from some community members and three members of city council, who wanted to re-open the discussion but were overruled by the majority. Photo courtesy Grand Canyon National Park/Used Under Common License

Round and round we go in the discussion surrounding Campbell River’s first roundabout

Majority of council says it’s heard enough about options and it’s time to move forward

A roundabout it will be.

Council decided last week it will move ahead with its decision to install a roundabout at the entrance of the Maritime Heritage Centre, despite numerous councilors wanting to re-open the discussion after receiving feedback from the community.

Coun. Marlene Wright made a motion to reconsider the decision, saying she had been approached by “a number of community members” after council decided to pick a roundabout over a lighted intersection back in March. These community members, Wright said, “weren’t against roundabouts, but they questioned the location, and I thought it was really important that we discuss it again before we finalize the option.”

She said that although roundabouts are used all over the world and are very popular traffic flow and traffic calming devices, it’s important they don’t just get installed everywhere a control device is needed, citing the city of Waterloo as an example of a community which “really endorses roundabouts, but they also don’t consider roundabouts if it accesses a parking lot.”

Wright cited New Zealand as another example of a government going all-in on roundabouts, saying “they have had tremendous success with roundabouts, but they do not, ever, put a roundabout flowing into a parking lot or a mall.”

“Sometimes, something that looks like the most popular choice, just does not fit,” she continued, pointing out that even the report by Highland Engineering that made the two recommendations for consideration acknowledged that there were factors outside the scope of their study that could complicate either decision, such as population growth and the prospect of future traffic increases, “and I think those are important things for us to consider if we’re trying to make a lasting enterprise.”

Coun. Michele Babchuk asked for clarification in terms of where in the process the project is, exactly, saying “I’m not prepared to support the motion to reconsider if it stops all of the work of staff coming back to fulfill those questions that we had around the design.”

City Manager Deborah Sargent informed Babchuk that the motion approved at the March 19 meeting was to move forward with the roundabout concept, “allowing staff and Highland Engineering to go to detailed design. There would be no additional refining of this concept that would come back to council. This was a green light to go ahead.”

Coun. Larry Samson said he wasn’t interested in re-opening the discussion at all, saying there were two options presented and one of them makes no sense.

“A stop light brings traffic to a complete halt and a roundabout is designed to keep traffic moving at all times, allow traffic to merge in and out and provides some pedestrian safety,” adding that “it also makes a statement that you’re entering the downtown area.”

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said that he, like Wright, feels that there needed to be a reconsideration of the options, saying he, too, thinks it’s the wrong location for a roundabout.

“Both options have got issues, without a doubt,” admitted Coun Ron Kerr. “I’ve got no issues with roundabouts and it’s about time Campbell River got one. They take some adjustment – I can’t say they’re my favourite, but I do think the community is watching the very first one and they do have some questions. I know I’ve been approached. It’s very important that we do it right the first time, so I’m going to support reviewing it.”

In the end, however, the vote was three to four in favour of leaving the matter as it is and continuing to move ahead with the process, allowing city staff and Highland Engineering to find answers to the safety concerns being expressed under the mandate that the end result will, in fact, be a roundabout.

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