Demolition has begun on the old North River arena, a fixture in Cornwall, P.E.I., for more than six decades, to provide a new entrance for fire trucks responding to emergencies and improve sight lines for vehicles in the new roundabout.

Steve Yeo, the chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, said the province purchased the land and was tearing down the building to improve safety after the intersection was converted into a roundabout.

"With the improvements at the intersection, we needed that piece of land to improve safety, sight lines and also provide access to the fire department," Yeo said.

The building was too close to the curb and vehicles couldn't see vehicles approaching the roundabout, Yeo said. Work began last week and most of the exterior of the building has already been removed. 

North River rink 1

Work on the old North River arena complex is expected to be completed by Christmas and will cost approximately $80,000. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The fire department will also have improved access to York Point Road, with a driveway being built to both improve the safety and improve response times of trucks responding to emergencies. North River fire Chief Anson Grant said any seconds they can save could be the difference between life and death.

"The area is very busy, especially during peak times in the morning, and afternoon. Trying to cross four lanes of traffic can be quite difficult and dangerous," Grant said.

North River Access Road

The new access road will be built near this roundabout. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"The new access road will allow us to enter the roundabout from our parking lot and go whatever direction we need to without crossing lanes."

The site work is expected to be done before Christmas, Yeo said, and will cost about $80,000.

North River rink 2

The North River arena building was too close to the curb and drivers couldn’t see vehicles approaching the roundabout, said chief engineer Steve Yeo. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

With files from Tom Steepe