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Roundabout boom sparked by ICBC, safety concerns

Crews work Thursday on the Somenos/Drinkwater roundabout, due to open in about three weeks. - Peter W. Rusland
Crews work Thursday on the Somenos/Drinkwater roundabout, due to open in about three weeks.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Fatalities at the Drinkwater and Somenos road intersection should end when the risky site’s new traffic circle opens around Aug. 8, municipal staff said.

Meanwhile, motorists are advised to avoid the rural intersection where construction started earlier this month, North Cowichan engineer John MacKay said.

He pegged the project’s cost at about $430,000, with some of that tab contributed by ICBC.

“They usually contribute in the $100,000 range, depending on the accidents at a site.

“ICBC does a review of accidents at the intersection, then calculates savings in claims they’ll make over time,” he said.

Accordingt to MacKay, the Drinkwater-Somenos corner has been the site of several serious accidents and even deaths.

One of those tragedies sparked installation of a flashing amber light.

The new roundabout — the municipality’s 11th since 2005 — will also control east- and westbound traffic to and from Cowichan Commons Mall, plus vehicles visiting the new Somenos Ball Fields, he said.

“Those, and developments in the area, are all contributing to more traffic there, and there’s more development planned for that area.”

ICBC has usually kicked cash into North Cowichan’s traffic circles, he noted.

“The amount varies on the accident history of the intersection.”

Some traffic circles also dot developments such as Trumpeter Point and Kingsview, MacKay added.

Most roundabout work has been done by municipal staff though Gibbins Road’s circle at the bottom of hospital hill was contracted out, he said.

Trees gracing circle centres will grow to “become a barrier in the middle to slow folks down,” he said.

Future roundabouts planned include River Road at Chemainus Road, and possibly Lane Road at Drinkwater.

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