Editorial - Council goes in circles over roundabout

Yorkton Council spent a considerable amount of time at its regular meeting Monday going in circles regarding the fate of a proposed roundabout.

The roundabout was recommended by City Administration to be part of the reconstruction of Mayhew Avenue which would include the intersection with Darlington Street East.

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The project, which was part of the 2019-2020 capital budgets approved by Council earlier this year was back before Council seeking approval of the details for the intersection.

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 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, explained Richard.

So the numbers, established through a process recognized by a body such as TAC, pointed to a need now for something different from a four-way stop.

It was reasoned by Richard the numbers at the intersection will only grow through the life of the intersection since much of the proposed residential growth in the city will take place in the northeast.

The installation of lights would add substantially to the project cost, pegged at just more than a million more than a four-way stop in a report circulated to Council.

A roundabout was put forward as a better option, with a cost of $180,000 more than a four-way stop.

However, not everyone on Council was buying the need for something more than a four-way stop.

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

Chyz is correct the current four-way stop has been working, the survey numbers just bumping over the threshold for a change.

But, reconstruction offers a window to make the change as efficiently as possible, while preparing for growth over the life expectancy of the intersection.

Others were questioning the validity of the numbers.

“I’m not sold on the figure going by my gut feeling,” suggested Coun. Mitch Hippsley.

While it is all well and good to trust one’s instincts, in this case Hippsley was basically saying he trusted his intestinal tract more than the numbers put forward by Stantec, an engineering services company the City has contracted as a consultant, and the administrative staff of the City.

If certain members of Council do not trust the numbers here, how do they rationalize trusting any numbers presented?

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 Mayor Bob Maloney, obviously frustrated by Council’s indecision, opposed.

While administration said it is feasible, it would require spending additional money; $10,000 on a design for a four way stop to be part of the tender. It will also delay the project into 2020 and likely finish in 2021.

The delay begs the question how much the cost of the overall project may rise, as costs generally inch upwards year-over-year.

It is also interesting that Coun. Quinn Haider questioned if the City might be liable if they rejected the traffic study recommendation and opted to maintain a four-way stop.

No one with Administration would offer an answer on liability, or even where to seek a legal opinion.

But now the City must ask an engineer to create a design utilizing a four-way stop. It may be difficult to find one willing to sign off on a design based on that same liability concern.

In the end this is a situation where half of Council; Haider, Chyz and Hippsley sat opposed to the original motion causing it to be defeated, are obviously having a trust issue with the figures they saw, which should be seen as troublesome.

Selectively trusting one report, but not another, makes little sense, even if your gut is talking to you.

It is a situation that could send Council into more circles than any roundabout they might approve.

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