Lately, the talk of the town has been the suggestion as to what to do with the “four way stop” at the Intersection of Highways 16 and 37. Suggestions have been rendered, problems identified and public discussions invited. The article suggested that perhaps a “roundabout” or traffic circle may be the best solution.
I am a big fan of roundabouts. Once you get the hang of them, there is nothing quite like a large traffic circle to keep traffic flowing smoothly and efficiently for all sizes of vehicles. We think mainly of Europe when thinking of them and from personal experience I can tell you there is nothing quite like flying into a roundabout in England or Ireland, on the opposite side of the car, shifting like a beginner driver with your other hand and rotating in the opposite direction to put fear into your heart. Not only that(and this part is also from personal experience) if you get lost or confused, you can just continue to drive around in circles until you figure it out. They are also growing in popularity all over North America and the world has not come to an end in places that do use them.
Hopefully, we are talking about a very large, properly designed traffic circle, with large flat kerbs in the middle area to allow oversized and over length trucks and trailers to ride up on them safely. To see this in action, go to YouTube and search “large trucks in roundabouts”. There are a number of very good videos showing just how efficient and safe these can be.
Reading this news release on the Standard web site and anticipating the outcry, I couldn’t wait to get to the inevitable public comments and I was not disappointed. Generally speaking, people opposed to these circles were grouped into 3 main camps. First, there were those opposed to them because they don’t understand how they work. Lack of understanding leads to fear and inevitably, fear leads to a lack of confidence. I can assure you that once you get the hang of moving into and out of the circle smoothly, and using your signal lights to indicate your planned direction, you will never go back again. The second group didn’t understand how “big trucks” could fit. The answer is pretty straightforward; you build a bigger circle and as I mentioned above, you flatten the center kerbs. I deal with professional truck drivers all day, and these guys (and gals) can do things with long trucks and loads that we mere mortals couldn’t begin to imagine. Again, it’s a matter of repetition and confidence that makes something new less scary. The third group seemed to feel that regardless of what happens all over the rest of world, “it won’t work here”. This attitude confuses me. Is it because people are too stubborn here? Or do we feel we have an overabundance of unskilled and ham-fisted drivers? Trust me on this one; every town in the world thinks they have the world’s worst or stupidest drivers. We do not have the exclusive rights to this claim.
As part of this discussion, the CVSE scale “shack” would need to be located somewhere else to make enough room and reduce congestion moving in and out of the circle. I don’t claim to be a traffic engineer, but logic to me would suggest that moving the scales out to Gossen would be the most plausible location. There is a long straight stretch with minimal development on either side of the highway, allowing for a mid-highway scale. This allows weighing and inspection of trucks in both directions and reduces the interfacing between slow moving trucks and vehicle traffic such as we have now at the current scales. Inevitably, westbound commercial traffic exiting the scales usually has to wait for a good Samaritan or two on Highway 16 to stop (illegally) to allow them to re-enter the highway. The trucker then has to go to the current four way and stop and start once again. All this turning, stopping and starting burns more fuel, increases vehicle and tire wear and tear and increases the chances of someone cutting the truck off at the Four way.
Of course, all of this will be subject to public input, traffic safety and more importantly, dollars that the Government may not be willing to spend. Visually, it could be very appealing, a nice big circle, well landscaped with a big Kermode bear in the middle of it with a Welcome to Terrace Sign. Of course, some of the good people of Thornhill may be opposed to that part of the vision, but that’s a completely different story.