Several dozen people attended the Gateway Roundabout public information session Wednesday evening at city hall to pepper staff with questions on the ambitious $2.1 million undertaking.
The project includes the removal of the oldest traffic signal in St. Thomas and replacement with a roundabout. This signal and the approach roads are well beyond their expected lifecycle, according to city staff. This intersection is also a significant safety concern due to the misaligned lane configuration and lack of left turn lanes.
Construction is expected to begin early this spring and will result in significant disruption to traffic in the city’s west end.
“In order to build this, you really need to shut down the intersection and we know it’s important to keep Sunset Drive open, there is a lot of traffic there,” noted David Jackson, manager of capital works for the city .
“Luckily with that right turn bypass lane there now (eastbound Sunset swinging south toward Port Stanley) we’re going to utilize that and widen it to a two-way road (allowing northbound traffic to avoid the intersection and head up Sandimount Hill toward Talbotville) for the majority of the project.”
That will allow for unobstructed construction of the other three legs in the centre of the roundabout.
“Then when we have to switch to build that south lane, we’re going to keep Sunset from the west open and motorists will be able to go through on Talbot,” Jackson advised.
“Right now when we’re looking at doing the final paving of the asphalt, we’ll do it at night time so there will be a full shutdown at that time with detours all around.”
Southbound traffic on Wellington Street can detour on to St. George Street or use the Hwy. 3 bypass.
“We have put a pretty tight schedule in (70 calendar days) but one benefit of working down here is there is no underground infrastructure,” explained Jackson. “So mainly it is surface work. There is some ditching and culverts and streetlights, but other than that it is just surface work and that helps speed the project up.”
Jackson confirmed the plan is to install a tourist-related feature within the centre of the roundabout.
“We’re still working on that. We’ve reached out to some people to help brainstorm ideas on what we can put in there. We certainly want something that is significant in importance to St. Thomas. One idea we’ve had is to put a locomotive in there. That would be a unique feature. But at this point we’re still working on the exact details.”
A small parking area will be included, southeast of the roundabout.
“We thought of adding some parking there and adding a tourist kiosk and there will also be a pathway to a ‘Welcome to St. Thomas’ sign and it’s also an opportunity to take a picture of the roundabout.”
Jackson indicated the project will be going out for tender in the next couple of weeks.
“Once that closes we’ll work out the exact timeline. Our goal is to get it started as soon as possible and getting it done before summer. We want to get the roundabout open before the busy summer traffic to Port Stanley.”