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Round and round we go: new North Park roundabout opens to traffic

HALIFAX – Monday morning commuters in Halifax had the opportunity to try out the city’s newest roundabout at the intersection of North Park, Agricola and Cunard Streets.

Construction of the roundabout began in the summer of 2014 and was slated to finish in October. After a slight delay, the intersection opened on Sunday afternoon.

During a one-hour period, there were a few confused drivers and a couple of honks, but the city is pleased overall with how motorists are adapting to the changes.

“We have a lot of signage up in the area and we’ve been communicating with residents fairly regularly, so they knew this was coming,” said Jennifer Stairs, Senior Communications Advisor with Halifax.

“We actually have nine roundabouts counting the new one in the municipality so people are getting more familiar with how to use them.”

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In 2010, Regional Council adopted a principle to modernize intersections with roundabouts where possible. Two intersections at North Park Street were flagged because they no longer met national transportation standards. Both had aging infrastructure, problematic traffic flow and too many collisions.

Stairs says roundabouts solve those problems.

“It keeps traffic flowing regularly so you don’t get that backup as you would with a traditional intersection with lights,” she said.

“They’re safer as well too because they cut down on instances of head-on collisions and they completely eliminate what’s known as the T-bone because you don’t have those right angles.”

The roundabout will also be safer for pedestrians because they’re crossing shorter distances and vehicles will be driving at a slower pace.

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For cyclists, however, it can be a mixed blessing.

Peter Henry of the Halifax Cycling Coalition is a big fan of the new system but understands not all cyclists are comfortable with it.

“It is a controversial aspect in the cycling community. So for cyclists who are daunted by the traffic circle, it’s always easy to get off and just push your bike through as a pedestrian,” Henry said.

The North Park redesign is the culmination of months of public consultation meetings and drawings. Henry says the cycling coalition is especially happy to see the elimination of a second lane for right-hand turns, which he describes as “lethal.”

“In an earlier version … there was a second lane on the outside that allowed you to do an immediate — and without slowing down — right-hand turn. Traffic engineers had designed it for 90 km/h,” he said.

“So we’re really pleased to see the improvements that have been made to this traffic circle.”

A second roundabout will be built down the street at the intersection of North Park, Cogswell and Rainnie Streets in the spring of 2015.

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