Alberta Transportation’s plan to build roundabouts on Highway 11 will significantly boost safety if Red Deer’s experiences hold true.
The province is planning five traffic roundabouts as part of its $120-million project to twin Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House.
Premier Jason Kenney announced the 66-kilometre project in July, touting it as a major initiative to improve highway safety and boost economic development in central Alberta.
Five roundabouts are proposed: Highway 20, Highway 781, Range Road 1-5, Range Road 2-5A (Benalto access) and Highway 766 (Eckville access).
Alberta Transportation has been adding roundabouts across the province in recent years.
In the summer of 2015, a roundabout replaced a problem intersection at Highway 2A and Highway 597. In mid-2008, a roundabout opened at Highway 20 and Lakeshore Drive at Sylvan Lake. That was the second provincial roundabout built. The first opened in late 2007 west of Calgary.
An Alberta Transportation spokesperson said that roundabouts are seen as a cost-effective and safe alternative to stop signs or traffic lights.
“By forcing slower speeds and reducing the potential for T-bone collisions, roundabouts reduce risk of fatal and serious injury collisions,” said KcKenzie Kibler in an email.
The province could not provide specific data on roundabout road collisions but did say a ”properly designed roundabout is estimated to reduces crashes by 40 to 60 per cent.”
Red Deer has also embraced roundabouts. They were opened at 67th Street and Johnstone Drive and 67th Street and 30th Avenue in the fall of 2016.
Konrad Dunbar, the city’s manager of engineering services, said they have proven their value.
While minor fender benders increased by around 50 per cent as drivers had to get used to roundabouts, more severe collisions dropped sharply.
“What we have seen, which is very encouraging to us, is that the injury collisions have gone down a lot.”
At the 67th Street and 30th Avenue major collisions have been reduced by 70 per cent and at the Johnstone Drive and 67th Street roundabout, major collisions are down 40 per cent.
Based on the experiences other communities have had with roundabouts, the minor collision numbers are expected to drop as people get used to navigating roundabouts.
Dunbar said he expects the province will see comparable — and perhaps even better — results from its Highway 11 roundabouts.
“(Roundabouts) actually have a larger impact in those rural-type settings … as it takes away the T-bone-style and head-on collisions at intersections.”
Besides the safety advantages of roundabouts, they are effective in getting people where they want to go more efficiently, said Dunbar.
Delays have been reduced by 90 per cent at the 30th Avenue roundabout and by 80 per cent at Johnstone Avenue.
In Leduc County, two people were killed at a notoriously dangerous intersection at Highway 60 and Highway 39, west of the city of Leduc.Alberta Transportation statistics showed that between 2009 and 2013 there had been 29 collisions at the junction, leaving two dead and 10 injured.
That history prompted the province to build a roundabout, which was completed in 2019.