Fatal accident at ‘S-Bend’ renews calls for improvements at intersection in North Perth

NORTH PERTH – Some Wellington County politicians and residents are urging Perth County to revisit the idea of installing a roundabout at the intersection where a Caledon woman was killed last week.

The intersection of Perth Roads 140 and 91 (Wellington Roads 8 and 9) is commonly referred to by local residents as the ‘S-Bend’ due to the way the road curves through the intersection. The intersection borders on Mapleton, Minto and North Perth.

The intersection has seen several crashes over the years, with the most recent being the Aug. 10 incident that claimed the life of 55-year-old Girga Persaud.

Perth County OPP reported that a tractor-trailer and an SUV collided at the intersection. Two others in the SUV were sent to hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer did not require medical treatment.

Dale Franklin, a Mapleton resident, posted the following to Facebook and encouraged “every person in our local area” to email Perth County Warden Jim Aitcheson about considering a roundabout at the intersection.

“How many more lives need to be lost or seriously altered before Perth will work with Wellington on a plan to put a roundabout at this location?” asked Franklin in her post.

“Roundabouts have been proven to lessen the severity of accidents and save lives. This has been discussed for years, it’s time to make a plan.

“Because of the geography of the area, it is always Wellington County first responders that need to attend, and I’m so upset by what our volunteer firefighters, police and paramedics have seen over the years at this intersection. I am not a resident of Perth, but I would like to know what I can do to move this forward. We need to work together to make this a reality.”

The post received plenty of positive feedback, with others sharing their near-miss experiences at that intersection.

Improvements at the intersection have been discussed in the past, most recently in 2016 by Wellington and Perth County councils.

Wellington County had the project in its 2017 budget deliberations; however, Perth County was not ready to proceed at that time. Wellington County opted to move forward with the roundabout at Teviotdale instead.

John McClelland, director of public works for Perth County, stated in an interview with the Listowel Banner that the project did not move forward in 2017 due to a “lack of justification.”

“From the outset, I indicated to them that I’d have no problem including that in our capital budget and bringing that to our council, however we need to see the justification for a roundabout at that location,” he said.

McClelland said he was provided data by Perth County OPP about crashes at the intersection, which showed that it was not a high-accident intersection.

“The information I got back from the OPP at that time was that there was no record of any accidents from 2015-17 at that intersection,” he said. “There were accidents at intersections farther south, but no indication of anything at that particular intersection.”

Joe de Koning, construction manager at Wellington County, said the data Wellington County has echoed those sentiments.

“In the past, based on the accident data we have, it doesn’t fully warrant the upgrade to the roundabout. That’s my understanding of the situation,” said de Koning on Tuesday morning.

Both McClelland and de Koning have reached out to the OPP to update the crash data for the intersection.

The mayors of Mapleton and Minto have expressed their support for improvements at the intersection to be done sooner rather than later.

“I said this the other night at our council meeting: it’s a dangerous corner and it should be looked at,” said Minto Mayor George Bridge, who also sits on Wellington County council.

Bridge explained that getting the two counties on the same timeline is difficult, as each county has their own priorities for projects.

“I do know it’s been a priority for us (at Wellington County),” he said.

As for the pressure being put on local politicians to revisit the project, Bridge explained there was nothing wrong with it.

“There’s nothing wrong with pubic pressure being put on us to get something done. It’s the taxpayers’ money we’re spending,” he said.

Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson said that Mapleton Fire and Rescue has responded to two fatal crashes and eight serious – but non-fatal crashes – over the past 10 years at the intersection.

“And that’s just from the Mapleton Fire standpoint,” he said. “I have no idea how many crashes Minto Fire has responded to at that intersection as well.”

Although the intersection borders on North Perth, the North Perth Fire Department does not respond to calls there. They have an agreement with Minto Fire to respond, as the Palmerston station is closer than the nearest North Perth station in Listowel.

Davidson hopes that the two counties can get together and move forward on the project.

“It’s very important that we have that intersection improved for the safety of our residents, including our children,” he said. “We bus our children from Mapleton to the high school in Palmerston. We absolutely want to make sure our kids are safe.”

The Mapleton mayor also cited the dangerous road conditions in the winter as another reason to improve the intersection.

“In the wintertime, it is very difficult to drive that S-Bend, especially on icy roads,” said Davidson. “One way or another, Perth County and Wellington County need to get together and improve that intersection for the safety of all.”

Currently, all intersections that fall under the control of Perth County are stop controls (stop signs). Any roundabouts located in Perth County are either controlled by the local municipality or the MTO.

“We (Perth County) have not constructed a roundabout as of yet,” said McLelland.

McLelland explained that Perth County staff and council understand the benefits and merits of roundabouts and did not rule out the county constructing one in the future. He said the one negative about roundabouts is the price tag. He estimated the cost of a roundabout to be $1.5 million. Perth County’s roads budget, on average, is $5 million.

“They come with a relatively high price tag,” he said. “That’s a big impact within our capital budget… It’s not so much the cost of the roundabout, it’s ensuring that we are putting a roundabout at a location that is justified.”

McLelland, speaking from a Perth County perspective, said the intersection in question was not as high on their priority list as other roads projects in the county.

“It’s hard to justify spending that kind of money at one intersection when you may have five others that are better justified for a roundabout,” he said.

“We just didn’t have that justification, at that time, to support (one at the S-Bend).”

For the S-Bend, both Perth County and Wellington County have oversized stop signs, “stop ahead” signs, and flashing lights before the intersection.

Both McLelland and de Koning appear to be on the same page about the future of improvements at the intersection.

“What we need to do is update our data from the OPP and have more conversations with Perth County to become aligned,” said de Koning. “Let’s look at the data and make some good decisions.”

“It’s something we’re going to take another look at,” said McClelland.

Neither McLelland nor de Koning had an estimated date on when this project may move forward.