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Highbury Avenue to get overhaul at gateway entrance to St. Thomas, Ont.

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It’s a sneak peek into the major construction plans for the gateway to the east end of St. Thomas, Ont.

Three roundabouts will be built along Highbury Avenue and Centennial Avenue next to the future Volkswagen plant.

“There'll be a roundabout at Ron McNeil and Highbury [Avenue], one at South Edgeware [Road] and another at Highway 3 [and Centennial Ave],” said Patrick Anckaert, senior project manager of Industrial Development for the city of St. Thomas. “They will be two lanes and they’ll be designed to accommodate a large transport truck to go all the way around and stay in its own lane.”

The three new roundabouts are part of ‘The Big Four’ projects this city has in store this year.

This one joins the South Edgeware Road Booster Station that will supply water to the industrial park. They will also be doing underground servicing construction and a rail spur connecting the CN Line to a portion of the PowerCo site.

Utility relocation work is seen being done along Highbury Avenue on Feb. 20, 2024, by Entegrus and Hydro One to move poles in order to start road work. (Source: Brent Lale/CTV News London)

These roundabouts will help accommodate the extra traffic expected in the region over the next decade.

The city gave a tease of what the three new interchanges will look like during their weekly YouTube Segment called “From the Beehive,” which has been giving the public a behind the scenes look at the mega-site over the past seven months.

"It's been neat actually to see the feedback we're getting on the Beehive through all of this infrastructure change,” said Sean Dyke, CEO of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation. “All the talking that we're doing now is finally answering some of those questions people had before and it's really made it easier to communicate with the community about what's happening."

The roundabout project is out for tender right now, and, subject to favourable results and council approval, work could begin in April.

“If you drive today down Highbury [Avenue], there's utility relocation work happening which is both by Entegrus and Hydro One,” said Anckaert. “They're moving those hydro poles out of the way so that we can start. We will look to finish base asphalt in December of this year. You will see a little bit more work in the next year as well. It is a really large project for the city. It's long but it's very, very important.”

Anckaert added that they expect the truck traffic going to the PowerCo site will primarily be using Highway 3 and not Highbury Avenue as it will be the primary and fastest route.

In the centre of the gateway roundabouts, there will be two new sculptures that were just approved by city council. One is a barn; the other is a wish flower with native grass added to the centre as well.

Two new sculptures have been approved by council for the centre of the roundabouts at Highbury Avenue and Ron McNeil Line, as well as Highbury Avenue and South Edgeware Road. (Source: City of St. Thomas)

"At every roundabout that is an entry to the city, we put a sculpture in the middle,” said Joe Preston, St. Thomas’ mayor.

He said that adding artwork to the middle of the roundabout is not only attractive, but safer.

“You are not to look straight ahead at a roundabout,” said Preston. “If the artwork in the middle stops you from looking for traffic further out, look to your left, that's where the traffic's coming from on a roundabout. By putting something blocking headlights coming the other way in the middle of the roundabout, makes more sense.”

While the $353,380 cost for the two sculptures was built into the budget, there was still a lot of online backlash believing the money could have been spent on helping the homeless or fixing city roads.

“We can multitask,” said Preston. “We're spending an extra $500,000 a year repairing roads in each of the last five years, but kept taxes low doing it. In homelessness, we're leading a lot of the communities around on what we're doing. We can do all the other road repairs and sewer repairs and wastewater repairs we need to do in our community on our city budget that is 2.95 per cent increase this year. I haven’t found another one near us.”

Three new roundabouts are planned as you enter St. Thomas from Highbury Avenue in London. This is an early look at the future of Highbury Avenue and Ron McNeil Line. (Source: City of St. Thomas)

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