OLDS — The town could have another traffic roundabout in its midst if a proposal from administrative staff becomes reality.
This one would be located at the intersection of 54th Street and 57th Avenue and is proposed as a way to deal with anticipated increased traffic, once residential housing units are developed in the nearby Miller Meadows property.
A controversial traffic roundabout at 68th Street and Highway 2A south of the cemetery, was built in 2021-22 at an estimated cost $6.39 million, for construction of a traffic roundabout and related work just south of the cemetery.
Chief administrative officer Brent Williams said administrative staff are looking at funding a signalization study to determine how best to handle that traffic and keep people safe.
He noted that the cost of the $30,000 study is coming from a reserve specially set aside for the impact of development.
“Should the Miller Meadows development take off – we assume it will start next year – that intersection will soon become untenable as a four-way stop and we’ll have to look at signalization,” he said.
Williams said administrative staff believe a roundabout is “a more feasible option.”
The proposed timeline is to design the intersection in 2024 and have the project funded for construction in 2025.
However, most of the town’s councillors spoke against the idea of a roundabout, essentially saying they didn’t see it as safe as traffic lights and crosswalks and that they didn’t believe there was enough room for a roundabout in that area.
Coun. Wanda Blatz described the 54th Street and 57th Avenue intersection as “a very congested intersection.” She questioned whether “light signalization” should be installed there instead.
“I’m concerned about the safety of people crossing the street, because we’ve already heard from residents who have concerns about the crosswalk and people not paying attention,” Blatz said.
Williams said the feasibility of a roundabout in the area versus traffic lights will also be part of the study.
He said currently, it’s believed a roundabouts are safer for pedestrians to cross than intersections controlled by traffic lights.
"Even though crossing is somewhat more difficult potentially at roundabouts, I believe it’s manageable,” Williams said.
Coun. James Cummings said to his knowledge, there’s never been an accident at that intersection, although he admitted that there have been “numerous anecdotal stories of near-misses.”
He said for safety reasons, RCMP had recommended a four-way stop at that intersection rather than traffic lights.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of the possibility of building a roundabout in there. That is a highly dense residential street corner,” Cummings said.
He noted that youth head to and from schools in the area.
“Pedestrian crossing capability at a roundabout seems very challenging,” Cummings said. “I’ve never seen one that works well.”
Coun. Heather Ryan echoed the concerns of the others.
“I witnessed lots of roundabouts around the world and realized that it can be problematic for people to cross (them),” she said.
Ryan also echoed the concern about whether there’s enough space for a roundabout in the area, noting the amount of space needed for a roundabout came up when the one on Highway 2A was under consideration.
Mayor Judy Dahl said the agriculture industry has been utilizing that intersection going to and from the auction mart and the Olds Regional Exhibition, so she’d like that factor taken into consideration.
Williams said that’s the purpose of the study: to examine all those factors and questions.
Williams said the town does likely have enough room for a roundabout in that intersection.
“You just look at Gasoline Alley, west of Costco. They have a similar type of designs throughout that new subdivision,” he said.
Adrian Pedro, the town’s new director of infrastructure, said the study will be an extensive one, looking at everything from the engineering of the intersection to the vehicles that use it.