By Mike Baker
Dysart et al council has held off on making any changes to the intersection at Kennisis Lake Road and Watts Road, which has been described as “problematic” and “dangerous” by some area residents and one elected official.
At its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, council debated the merits of possibly reconstructing the intersection or installing stop signs, after Rob Camelon, the township’s director of public works, noted there have been several complaints made regarding the safety of the rural junction.
“Council and staff alike have had complaints about this intersection. It’s described as dangerous. I spoke with the fire chief (Mike Iles), and he’s not aware of any car accidents up there, and I’m not aware of any. As far as we can tell, there may have been some near misses,” Camelon said.
Still, Camelon spent some time at the site earlier this month. He conducted what he called a rough survey – taking a look at the site and considering what could be done to alleviate the issue. He admitted there were problems with visibility, but said the intersection itself is not unique and that the same issue exists at multiple road crossings in the area.
Since he is already in the process of working with a traffic engineer to assess the municipality’s entire road network, Camelon said he could take a closer look at some of these “problem spots”, although he said it would be a complicated process trying to come up with a plan to fix them.
“We know we have a lot of [these] problem spots. I don’t know how we would ever prioritize them,” Camelon said.
Mayor Andrea Roberts said that the township would “be in a lot of trouble” if it started looking at the road alignment and turning radius of all its older, rural roads, commenting that each potential reconstruction project would cost “huge bucks”.
She also took issue with the fact the Kennisis Lake Road and Watts Road intersection has been labelled dangerous.
“Be cautious of using the word dangerous. It could be dangerous for me walking from [town hall] to my car. We have cottage roads here that were built, a lot of times, as logging roads. Nobody planned [for] them [to be used for] turning. It would be huge, maybe even impossible to bring some of these intersections up to proper alignment,” Roberts said.
“If there had been 10 accidents there in two years and it was clearly defined to have been because of sight lines, then that’s different. It might be someone’s perception that it’s not safe, but we would have to look at a whole lot of things before we start realigning intersections,” she added.
Ward 4 Coun. John Smith worried about the potential financial, and moral, implications of leaving the intersection as it is, given that many have acknowledged there are serious visibility issues at the site.
He suggested the town’s public works department install stop signs at the intersection, essentially turning it into a three-way stop.
“The problem right now is that people coming out and turning left (from Watts Road), they can’t see the traffic coming from the opposite direction on Kenissis Lake Road… It’s basically a blind left hand turn,” Smith said. “My fear now, although there hasn’t been a serious accident at this intersection yet, there have been some real close calls. [If there were an accident], the OPP could do an investigation and part of that could be them saying this is a poorly laid out intersection, and we as a municipality would be partially responsible for what happened.”
He added, “We don’t need to acquire new property. We don’t need to send out a crew to build a new road, or do some [bush removal] or anything like that. The cost involved here [to fix the problem] is for two stop signs. A three-way stop is not necessarily a bad suggestion.”
Camelon was quick to point out that the Ontario Traffic Manual specifically states that stop signs are not to be used as speed control devices, and should only be installed to assign right of way.
“I think we would be using [the stop signs] to try and slow people down, and that’s not what they’re intended for,” Camelon said.
Council directed Camelon to keep this intersection in his thoughts as he works on the assessment of the town’s road network over the coming months.