LONG SAULT – While backhoes and dump trucks were already breaking up pavement in the background, officials symbolically dug shovels into the ground to start the County Road 2 redesign, which includes two roundabouts.
Members of the United Counties of SD&G, Township of South Stormont and Cornwall Gravel took part in the brief ceremony Thursday afternoon off Long Sault Drive.
Not only will the roundabouts be built at Moulinette and Mille Roches Road, County Engineer Ben de Haan says the roadway corridor will be reduced from five lanes in some places to two lanes in order “calm traffic down” and make a road that “serves what it needs to serve.” There will also be three pedestrian walkways, allowing better access to the waterfront.
“The fortunate part about having so much pavement in front of us here is there is a lot of flexibility for the contractor to move traffic around while they’re working in the areas that they’re working in,” De Haan said.
The county left the project to late in the summer season to try an minimize effects on the community, parks, drivers and vacationers but “unfortunately there will be delays.”
De Haan said the social media backlash about the roundabouts is “fair” but, speaking with his counterparts in Ontario, there is always opposition to change but “once the community is on board and used to way it operates that it’s generally widely accepted and much preferred.”
He says the county has already received public concerns about the signage around the construction site and they have already worked with the contractor to address it shortly.
When asked why the county was holding a photo-op for the roundabout project, De Haan said it was important to recognize the $980,000 in provincial funding for the $2.2 million project, it was in the municipality governed by the current warden and this was the county’s “first foray into a real holistic streetscaping project…really changing the way a road functions to better the community.”
County already in informal talks with Cornwall about traffic circle
Addressing driver behaviour, with many people commuting from the United Counties into Cornwall for work, they will be met with two different set of driving rules – ones for the roundabouts in Long Sault and the other set of rules for the Rotary Traffic Circle in Cornwall.
In a roundabout, once you’re in the circle, people coming in have to yield. With a traffic circle, like the one in Cornwall, it’s the opposite.
Ben de Haan said the county has already had “discussions…informally” with Cornwall about accelerating a change to the Rotary Traffic Circle.
“I understand there to be, that they’re looking at that concept. I don’t know what depth or what detail. I would certainly encourage them to consider changing the traffic circle,” De Haan said.
“Not to suggest that a traffic circle doesn’t function well there but I think, with this, there’s certainly an opportunity and maybe this is an impetus for the city to consider that.”
No feedback from South Stormont business near construction: Bancroft
South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft, who is also the county warden, acknowledges there are still people “to this day” that don’t want to see the roundabouts go ahead.
“Our council took the time to review the situation before we voted in favour to go forward. We went to other communities, such as Embrun and Winchester, and I went to Picton and saw how they do work. And they (the public) will be okay once the change is in place. That word change is the biggest challenges we have now,” the mayor said.
“If the public will allow the process to move forward without a lot of negativity, I humbly believe over a short period of time they will come that it’s okay to be on a roundabout,” Bancroft said.
With social media feedback about removing members of council in the next election, the mayor hopes that this one issue would not be the reason to remove members of council but “that’s they’re right.”
As for businesses on Long Sault Drive affected by the construction, Bancroft said he hasn’t received “zero calls…not one call, not one email.”
The roundabout project is expected to be completed by November. Final landscaping will be done in the spring.