Sundre’s much-maligned roundabouts are causing fresh headaches for residents in the small town north of Calgary.
The three modular, raised roundabouts were installed along Highway 27, which runs right through the centre of the town, on a trial basis in 2017 to improve traffic flow and safety.
The roundabouts have been there ever since after being made a permanent fixture in 2019, much to the frustration of large numbers of residents who still have trouble navigating them.
Many report constant near misses with other vehicles passing over them and say they don’t like how the roundabouts look and feel to drive over.
Now, uncompleted repairs to the road surface around the raised modular structures have residents fuming.
The work has left huge potholes and drops in the road level, punishing cars, which have been bottoming out while trying to make it through. The recent snowfall and wet conditions this week have made the road conditions even worse.
“The contractor tore out around the edges of the roundabouts and we were told it was supposed to be finished by the 15th of October,” said Melany Sealy, speaking about work being done by Lahrmann Construction.
She says the workers left and haven’t been back to finish the job.
“Now with the amount of traffic and semi trucks that we have on this highway, there’s potholes two feet deep, cars are bottoming out and it’s impassable,” Sealy said.
“I’ve heard of lots of vehicles being damaged this week because of this. The roundabouts themselves caused damage before this work, too,” she said, adding that driving over the hard, raised structures is bad for vehicles at the best of times.
“They’re probably going to have some vehicle repair bills coming,” she said.
Sealy says more than two years after they were put in, many residents still haven’t warmed to the roundabouts and continue to call for them to be removed and replaced with something else.
“We would rather see them gone,” she said. “It’s an awful lot of money for no need.”
Sealy says residents don’t get why the provincial government and the Town of Sundre are so set on the roundabouts given all the negative feedback, repairs that have been needed and ongoing snow removal problems.
“I went through there and got some damage to my car, to my muffler, so I’m not super happy about it,” said Abby Schrader, talking about her Honda Accord, one the roundabouts’ latest victims.
“The potholes are deep enough that when I high centred in there, none of my tires on the right side were touching the ground. If it had been a different angle, I might not have been able to get out without a tow,” she said.
“It wasn’t very good before they started working on it, either,” she said.
“I don’t like the traffic circles at all. I think lights would have fixed the problem better. Four lanes with lights would have been amazing and much safer,” said Schrader.
She says she’s heard of several cases of people who’ve damaged their vehicles this past week.
Schrader is one of many residents who’ve signed a petition to have the traffic circles removed.
“They have all the money in the world to put up gazebos and picnic tables but can’t keep up with the roads,” she said, speaking about other improvements made in the town.
Sealy says she hopes the town and province use this latest problem to take another look at the long-term viability of the roundabouts.
The Town of Sundre’s operations manager Jim Hall says the construction company involved had to move temporarily to another site to finish a separate job before more winter weather arrives and that the Sundre project will be completed, just later than expected.
Hall stressed the town has no responsibility at all for the section of road.
Alberta Transportation says it contracted the removal of old pavement along Highway 27 last week in preparation for repaving along the roundabouts and this has resulted in the current uneven driving surface.
A spokesperson told CBC that, weather permitting, paving will begin this week and be complete within a week, or as quickly as possible.