“It’s going to be fine,” says Teri Pelton. She and her husband, Joe, were the first people to go around the roundabout being constructed in Clearwater when it was switched to a circular traffic pattern on Friday afternoon, Sept. 13.
“We were worried when we saw the lineups from four separate directions but then we were happy when we were the first to go through,” she said.
They had no problem navigating the traffic circle.
“It’s easy,” Pelton said. “People just have to get used to it … and it will be even better when it’s finished and all the lines are in.”
She said that she still is a little apprehensive because, while the roundabout now is one lane all the way around, when complete it will have two lanes going east-west along the highway and only single lanes going north-south connecting Park Drive and Clearwater Valley Road.
Pelton said she didn’t think that wold be a big problem – just one more thing to figure out and get used to, once the time came.
“It’s been a learning experience,” project manager Dan Quigley said shortly after the Friday afternoon switchover.
A former resident of Clearwater, he’s been away for the past 10 years upgrading his qualifications and gaining experience.
This hasn’t been the biggest project he’s supervised but it is his first roundabout, he said. In fact, it’s the first roundabout for nearly everyone involved, including the engineers.
Site safety for the workers and the travelling public has always been the top priority and it hasn’t always been easy, he said.
The most difficult time came last June when mudslides closed Rogers Pass. Vehicles were going through the site at the rate of one every few seconds at a time when they wanted to get construction moving ahead.
No project is without difficulties, Quigley said, but he felt that overall everyone involved has been doing a good job under what have been, at times, trying circumstances.
One example of those difficulties was the concrete curbing installed recently around the outside perimeter of the roundabout. Because of a small elevation error it had to be torn up. The curbing should be replaced this week, he said.
Then they will install the curbing for the center of the roundabout, the roundabout apron (for large tractor-trailers to drag their inside wheels on), sidewalks, and a final layer of asphalt.
According to recent information from the Ministry, the project is on schedule for completion by the end of October.
The roundabout now under construction at the junction of Highway 5 and the road to Wells Gray Park has been the subject of some controversy since it was announced in June of 2011 that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was considering the alternative.
Proponents said it would make the intersection safer, plus it would highlight the turnoff to Wells Gray Park.
Opponents had a number of arguments against the project. Perhaps most significantly, they pointed out that the intersection is not the most dangerous in the area (although there have been some serious injury crashes there, there does not appear to have been a fatality).
A posting by the Times on various social media sites on Friday afternoon that vehicles had started going around the roundabout led to dozens of comments, both positive and negative.