THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s first roundabout on a city street is set to open in a matter of months after winning city council approval, but one councillor says accessibility concerns over the project remain unresolved.
Council voted 10-1 to award the roughly $2.7 million tender for the project to Nadin Contracting on Monday.
In addition to replacing a set of traffic signals with a roundabout at the intersection of Edward Street and Redwood Avenue, the contract also covers reconstruction of a section of Edward, watermain replacement, and installation of a new multi-use path.
Reports from the city’s engineering department have touted the benefits of roundabouts for safety, traffic flow, and the environment.
Roundabouts lower the number of collisions causing injury by about 75 per cent compared to traffic lights, one report found, while also reducing their severity.
There were 16 collisions reported at the intersection of Edward and Redwood between 2010 and 2020, according to the city. Of those, five caused non-fatal injuries, eight caused property damage, and two involved pedestrians.
Coun. Rebecca Johnson cast a lone vote of protest against the tender Monday over unresolved concerns around pedestrian safety, particularly for people with disabilities.
Council voted to award the tender without any discussion on Monday. Johnson said in an interview she had already raised her concerns at previous meetings, and didn’t feel the need to express them again.
The city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee continues to have objections to the roundabout at that location, said Johnson, who sits on the committee.
Though the committee has not passed a formal motion around the issue, she said it had written a memo to council expressing its concerns after holding several meetings to discuss how the roundabout design would accommodate people with disabilities.
“It was very clear the committee was not in favour of it,” Johnson said.
The city will look to address one of the committee’s concerns over the roundabout’s landscaping plan, which was recently modified to incorporate a medicine wheel design, staff said in a report to council.
The Accessibility Advisory Committee shared concerns over the planned height and size of plantings, and sight lines for the visually impaired, the report said.
"Pedestrians with vision impairment or other mobility challenges may find roundabouts difficult to navigate due to their unfamiliarity with layout and constant traffic flow," a previous city report acknowledged.
However, it concluded those concerns could be addressed by installing pedestrian crossovers, which would signal traffic to stop upon request, for multi-lane crossings on Edward Street.
The Accessibility Advisory Committee had previously suggested installing the crossovers at the Redwood Avenue crossings as well, but city engineering concluded that was unnecessary for a single lane crossing.
Nadin, a local company, submitted the lowest big among six companies who competed for the tender, at $2,673,146.08. That beat the closest bid by over $200,000, and the city’s pre-tender estimate by nearly the same amount.
The city’s 2021 capital budget already included sufficient funding for the work.
The roundabout will cost an estimated $1 million to install, compared to about $850,000 for a traffic light system.
The city estimated the roundabout would make up the difference in just over 20 years through slightly lower maintenance costs.
However, that was before the approval of the medicine wheel design, which will add between $5,000 and $10,000 a year to maintain plantings and landscaping, and periodically replace coloured thermoplastic paint.
Other work in the contract includes reconstructing Edward from Ward Avenue to William Street (includes resurfacing, curb and gutter repair, street lighting upgrades), replacing the watermain from Ward Avenue to Ironwood Avenue, and creating a new multi-use path on Redwood Avenue from Edward Street to Sherbrooke Street.
Council voted 10-1 to award the tender on Monday, with Johnson voting against, and councillors Fraser and McKinnon absent.
Work on the reconstruction of Edward Street is expected to begin in mid- to late-May, and continue through October.
The city has one existing roundabout inside of Marina Park, near the south entrance.