There is no doubt that Kemptville is a roundabout-heavy town, with three roundabouts having already been in place for years in the relatively short section of County Road 43 that runs through town. As announced earlier this month, a new roundabout will soon be built just east of town, at the intersection of County Roads 43 and 22. While this project has been planned for years and its announcement was a source of great joy for many, not everyone is excited.
Ron Smith lives right next to the intersection poised to get the new roundabout. He has been fighting for years for a set of traffic lights to be installed at the intersection instead. Living so close to the intersection, he is often one of the first people on the scene helping whenever an accident does occur there. The final decision for the roundabout project came as an unpleasant shock.
One sticking point for Ron is that he claims he was told by Bill Guy – who is the Manager of Engineering and Operations for the Leeds and Grenville United Counties – that if traffic lights were planned instead, they could have been installed as early as 2020. Ron has attended meetings since 2019, hoping to convince the Municipality and the Counties that lights are a better option. He feels a roundabout is inappropriate for such a busy highway. “Heavy truck traffic runs through here,” said Ron. “This is not an optimum place to put one of those things. Putting in lights would not have required possibly expropriating land to fit it in. Also, the type of traffic isn’t being considered if they stay with a roundabout since they are trying to put the smallest one possible in. The decision was made without any traffic volume data to support it, only the comparison of which is safer.”
Noise is already a problem at the intersection, but Ron is worried that the noise level will rise even more after the roundabout is installed. Noise concerns were one sticking point in the planning of the specific upgrades for the intersection of County Roads 43 and 22. One traffic calming measure that has been proposed for the area is rumble strips. However, Counties Director of Public Works Rick Kester pointed out at a virtual meeting on October 4 that while these are effective at getting drivers’ attention, they also produce a lot of noise. Feedback will therefore be sought from local residents regarding such measures, but Ron is worried that just the roundabout itself will increase noise.
Ron has talked to other area residents who also agree that a roundabout is not the ideal solution for the intersection at County Roads 43 and 22. “If they’re going to do something I would rather see a set of lights put up here,” Ron said. He wishes he had known about the meeting on October 4, as he would have asked if he could participate. Along the section of County Road 43 that passes through North Grenville, he is one of the only residential property owners who lives at a roundabout intersection (or in this case, what is soon to be a roundabout intersection), and so he feels he should have more of a say.
Ron believes that the previous Council has severely mishandled issues related to upgrades to County Road 43, particularly when it comes to the use of roundabouts. “[That] Council screwed it all up,” he said. He added that not enough consideration has been given to proposed alternate truck routes during construction. “The 43 is the only truck route from Kemptville to Winchester. The alternative route is Boundary Road (by Eastern Memorials) to French Settlement or Kennedy to County Road 20 – all of which are residential, trucks are actually not allowed on those roads and the residents on those roads should be forewarned.”
Proponents of roundabouts often point to research suggesting that they are safer than other types of intersections because they nearly eliminate the possibility of head on collisions, and accidents that do occur at roundabouts are almost always low in speed and therefore low in injures and deaths. Roundabouts have become more common in recent decades. Recently, an existing set of traffic lights at the intersection of two county roads in Long Sault was replaced by a roundabout. Unfortunately for those who dislike them, the trend toward using roundabouts as a traffic control measure at busy intersections is not likely to change anytime soon.