By KATIE INGRAM
The HRM may have installed two roundabouts within the last two years, but the Willow Tree intersection won’t be getting the same treatment anytime soon.
“We’ve made improvements to signal timings, the wiring and infrastructure, but in the short term that’s all we’re planning at this point,” says Taso Koutroulakis, manager of Traffic Management with the HRM.
The Willow Tree is the intersection where Robie Street, Bell Road, Quinpool Road and Cogswell Street meet. Composed of five lanes of traffic and four crosswalk lanes, it has been met with frustration and concern from drivers and pedestrians.
“No matter what light you’re at, you’re going to be stuck there for ages,” says Halifax resident Cassandra Lilley. “You also run into the trouble of drivers being fed up with being there for so long, they don’t pay attention to when the lights change; I’ve come close to getting hit on numerous occasions.”
Kim Hart Macneill, who has driven, cycled and walked through the intersection, is also concerned with timing and safety. As a driver, she agrees the lights take too long to change and as a pedestrian, she finds the walk signal doesn’t last long enough.
“The moment you get the walk signal, it’s there for a few seconds and then switches over to the countdown,” says Hart Macneill. “I walk at a good pace and I can’t get through any of the large crosswalks before the countdown finishes … if you have any mobility impediments, you just won’t have time.”
Other issues that Hart Macneill and Lilley note are poorly cleared snowbanks and pedestrians, who are tired with waiting, crossing when the walk sign isn’t showing.
As per municipality policy, intersections are reviewed every two years. Koutroulakis admits the Willow Tree intersection is complicated, but nothing has come to his attention that would suggests it needs to change.
“In the past there’s been concerns about pedestrians still not having enough time to cross the street, but we’ve gone through an exercise recently where we increased the walking times at all of our intersections,” he says. Based on the review, the time has been changed to accommodate a walking speed of 1.2 meters per second instead of the previous one metre per second.
HRM intersections only receive major upgrades, like the roundabouts that were installed at Cogswell and North Park, when their “current configuration” poses a safety risk or the intersection reaches an end of life stage. This stage occurs when the infrastructure, wiring, signals and other components start to fail. The site is evaluated and suggestions are made.
“Even if we did an analysis and found a roundabout is a good idea, they are quite expensive,” says Koutroulakis. “We would consider an alternative, not necessarily a roundabout, but an alternative.”
Until any major changes are made to the Willow Tree, Hart Macneill would like to see both pedestrians and drivers be a bit more careful.
“Everybody needs to devote a little more time to how they are moving across the road,” she says.
(Ed note: See update below)
— hfxgov (@hfxgov) March 3, 2016