Intersection fate now unclear

The completion of work on Mayhew Avenue and its intersection with Darlington Street is on hold pending further engineering and a new tender request which came out of discussion at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday.

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The work, which was approved in the 2019 and 2020 budget process already undertaken by Council bogged down as Council faced a decision over the eventual make-up of the intersection.

“In preparation for upcoming road reconstruction, traffic counts at the intersection of Mayhew Avenue and Darlington Street East were conducted in 2016,” explained Rene Richard, Director of Engineering and Asset Management with the City.

“This intersection currently is a four-way stop. As part of preliminary design and budget preparation, a Traffic Signal Warrant analysis of this intersection was completed in November 2018. The warrant analysis is a standardized process recommended by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) and involves a lengthy formula and a warrant matrix. It is recommended that signalization of an intersection be considered if the warrant score reaches 100. In this case, the evening peak score was 103 thus warranting signalization.”

“Signal warrants are used as a benchmark to determine the need for the installation or removal of traffic control signals based on volumes and delay for traffic (including pedestrians) as well as the conflict points from a safety standpoint. The warrant thresholds used in warrant methodologies ensure justifications remain consistent and reliable,” detailed a report presented to Council.

When complete reconstruction is planned, Richard said there needs to be a more long term vision in terms of what to install.

“If the current traffic counts already warrant traffic signals, we know that there are already times of the day when the four-way stop is not functioning efficiently. It is also likely that traffic will increase due to surrounding development,” he said.

Ultimately there are three practical options for this intersection treatment: build a new 4-way stop, upgrade to a roundabout, or upgrade to a signalized intersection.

The roundabout option was suggested to cost $180,000 more than a four-way stop, with traffic signals just more than $1 million over a four-way stop.

“The roundabout option is the second most cost effective option and will provide a way to efficiently move traffic today and would not need to be upgraded during the life of the intersection. As discussed in the past, roundabouts also provide other benefits such as safety by reducing speeds and reducing the number of conflict points (at which vehicles and/or pedestrians may collide). Single lane roundabouts also produce greater safety for pedestrian crossings because the crossing distances are shorter. This could be important given the proximity of this intersection to the elementary schools,” offered Richard.

“By applying the same design concept for the intersection of Dracup and Darlington to Mayhew and Darlington and using best engineering practices, taking into consideration that this is not an asphalt recap but an entire reconstruction of road base material, it is recommended that the upgrade be undertaken now rather than incurring additional costs in the future.”

But not all of the Councillors were convinced.

“There’s nothing wrong with how this is constructed right now,” offered Councillor Ken Chyz.

Offers were immediately supportive.

“I am a supporter of roundabouts,” said Mayor Bob Maloney, adding that it is not the first one in the city.

Coun. Aaron Kienle said the roundabout already on Darlington has seemed too worked well.

“From what I’ve heard it has been mostly positive,” he said.

Coun. Mitch Hippsley also professed liking roundabouts.

“I’m a huge fan of roundabouts. This is the way to go,” he said at one point in the meeting.

But later Hippsley was suggesting concern over the pricing.

“I’m not sold on the figures going by my gut feeling,” he said.

Maloney suggested moving ahead with a roundabout was about saving money.

“I believe a roundabout is the best way to save money,” he said.

When it came to a vote to proceed with a roundabout Council ended up in a three-to-a-side tie, with Coun. Darcy Zaharia not in attendance. A tie defeats a motion in municipal government in Saskatchewan, leaving the fate of the intersection and Mayhew reconstruction in limbo.

Hippsley suggested a compromise whereby the City would tender seeking prices on both a four-way stop and a roundabout to confirm prices.

The motion passed with only Maloney opposed.

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