Bounced bump-outs coming back to dangerous corner

Parents and children cross Indian Road at the intersection of Errol Road in October, before council ordered the removal of yellow “bump-outs” that reduced the number of traffic lanes. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The busy intersection at Errol and Indian roads will be among the first in Sarnia to get an “unwarranted” traffic light after city council changed its mind, yet again, on how to make the corner safer.

Signal lights are judged unwarranted when traffic studies find insufficient volume to justify their expense and disruption. But Sarnia’s chief engineer says traffic lights, combined with permanent boulevard extensions called bump-outs, will narrow the width of Indian Road and reduce the risk of collisions.

Council approved the lights in a unanimous vote last week. Then five of nine councillors also agreed to the installation of permanent bump-outs there as well.

In favour were councillors Brian White, Mike Stark, Margaret Bird, Dave Boushy and Nathan Colquhoun.

The Errol-Indian intersection fronts Errol Road School and has been a concern for years because of its unusual width and difficult turn angle on a main thoroughfare.

The design of the road encourages speeding and the intersection’s angle makes visibility difficult.

Five years ago, it became the only intersection in the city with a second crossing guard, and in 2019 council approved temporary concrete bump-outs designed to calm traffic and reduce the distance pedestrians need to cross.

Permanent and more visually pleasing bump-outs were planned for this year, but public objections prompted council to rethink its strategy.

Neighbours were unhappy with the look of the temporary bump-outs, how they interfered with snow removal, and their impact on property values

At the urging of Coun. Bill Dennis, council voted in October to remove the temporary bump-outs and go back to the drawing board.

They were removed quickly, leaving the intersection without any traffic-calming features.

Following complaint from parents and the crossing guards, council reconsidered its decision last week and endorsed both the permanent bump-outs and traffic lights.

David Jackson, Sarnia’s general manager of engineering and operations, said the two measures should make the intersection almost as safe as a traffic roundabout.

Permanent bump-outs will involve extending the curbs into the roadway to create room for grass and making snow removal easier.

Asked if he is concerned there are no safety features at the intersection this winter, Jackson said it’s not ideal.

“But the two crossing guards do a good job at controlling the intersection and we plan on moving (on construction) as quickly as possible,” he said.

An analysis found the intersection’s odd angles and size make it a poor candidate for a roundabout, he said.

However, staff is looking into a mini roundabout for the Cathcart-Indian Road intersection a few blocks to the north.

Installing traffic lights and permanent bump-outs at Errol and Indian will cost about $450,000. Comparatively, a roundabout would cost $1.5 million.

Because the traffic signal is unwarranted, Lambton County won’t share the cost of installation.

Coun. Terry Burrell said the people he talks to don’t like bump-outs and he preferred to try traffic lights alone for a few years to see if bump-outs are necessary.

But Coun. Brian White urged council to move ahead with both measures.

“When you’re talking about the lives of children, there’s no question that safety has to be our top priority here,” he said.