Charlottetown drivers should brace for disruption as soon as Tuesday on the long-awaited new roundabout that will replace five-way traffic lights at a key city intersection.
That's when construction is set to start at the intersection of Belvedere Avenue, Brackley Point Road, St. Peters Road and Falconwood Drive — soon to be nicknamed "the Vogue Optical roundabout," if the corner's history has anything to do with it.
"It's been talked about since about 2008 or even earlier than that," Scott Adams, manager of public works for the City of Charlottetown, said of the roundabout.
The traffic control circle is expected to be fully functional by the end of the year, though some cleanup work will continue into December, with more needed in the spring.
In the first phase of the project at what is commonly known as "the Vogue Optical corner," Adams said St. Peters Road will remain free of construction.
Roundabouts versus traffic lights
The current signalized intersection was installed a long time ago, Adams noted, and it seemed like the best option at the time. Now roundabouts are becoming increasingly common on Prince Edward Island roads.
"When you're in a roundabout, you only have to worry about the one vehicle that's coming around the roundabout," he said.
When cars are sitting idling, you're burning fuel …[A roundabout] helps reduce greenhouse gases because vehicles aren't sitting and idling. — Scott Adams
"With signalized intersections, when you have a red light, everyone in that direction is stopped. And that could be upwards of 30-45 seconds, just depending on the signals."
In contrast, a roundabout keeps traffic slowly moving forward into the roundabout and around to the desired exit. That means less idling, as well as time saved.
"When cars are sitting idling, you're burning fuel," Adams pointed out. When a roundabout is built, "it helps reduce greenhouse gases because vehicles aren't sitting and idling."
The president of the company long associated with the five-legged intersection is eager for work to begin.
"If this can push the traffic out faster, then everybody wins," said Juanita Leary, president of Vogue Optical.
Vogue has been located on the "very busy corner" for over 40 years, and Leary herself has been working there for 35 of those years.
She thinks people associating the intersection with Vogue Optical has been good for business, and expects the new roundabout won't change that.
"Our promotions are based on roundabout construction, so we'll have some fun with it."
A decade of discussions
Adams said the project has been a long time coming because so many details had to fall into place.
"There's just a lot of moving pieces, especially when you're working within a municipality."
Land restrictions required negotiations, and the negotiations were primarily driven by what funding was available for the project.
"It's not cheap by any means," he said. "We're nearing the $7-million mark."
To cover the cost, Adams said the city is using some of its own capital budget while leveraging funds from the federal government, in the form of a share of gas tax revenues.
Funding is provided annually by the federal government to municipalities so that they can move forward with critical infrastructure projects such as "roads and bridges to water, waste, energy and transit systems."
Each municipality will then decide where the funding goes.