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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Editorials George Street Bypass To Carlow Road Could Cost Big-Time

by Doug Harvey

A George Street Bypass to Carlow Road was mentioned a great deal during the last Municipality of Central Elgin Election and seemed to be political promise that would become a reality in the near future. Some of the concerning issues and possible associated costs surrounding this alternate route seem to date back to the days when this area of town had a significant pollution problem leftover from the Shamrock Chemical and Ultramar sites. Some of the possible costs in taking ownership of this property became public during a "Port Stanley Parking and Traffic Issues Meeting" in 2009 and are contained in the following article written by Francie Dennison.

Port Stanley Parking and Traffic Issues Meeting by Francie Dennison

Representatives from Port Stanley Community Policing, BIA and PSTR, the Municipality of Central Elgin and the Elgin OPP detachment spent the better part of November 20, 2009 discussing traffic and parking issues in the village and assessing potential solutions.

The goal of the meeting was to clearly identify problem areas and to come up with workable solutions that could be implemented for the 2010 tourist season. Everyone around the table in the Legion Freedom Hall agreed Port Stanley has had unresolved parking and traffic problems for many years.

Elgin County was invited to send representatives to this meeting but did not attend and, in fact, did not even respond in any way to the invitation.

Vic Clive, current Chair of the Port Stanley Community Policing Committee, opened the meeting by explaining that traffic issues in the village are part of their constitution and that was why they called this meeting.

Lloyd Perrin, Central Elgin's Director of Physical Operations, detailed the Traffic and Assessment Study conducted for the municipality by Dillon Engineering in 1997. The data for that study was collected during the summer of 1997 between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday the first two weekends of August 1997. It consisted of pneumatic tube counts and visual counts and observations focused on the main traffic intersections in Port Stanley. It determined that the main volume of traffic flowed down Sunset/Colborne, turning onto Bridge Street as a route to the beach, with that route experiencing 2.3 to 2.9 times the volume of traffic that flowed along the Warren and Carlow alternate route to the beach. Suggestions made by that study to flow more beach traffic along the alternate route to the beach have been implement but the main route still experiences twice the traffic volume of the alternate route.

As well, any proposed changes which affect Sunset, Colborne, Bridge, Warren, Carlow, Joseph or East Road require agreement from two levels of government, both the municipality and the County.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that the traffic and parking issues are only for 12 weeks out of each year and any potential solutions must be cost-effective in terms of this short period.

Traffic Flow

Councillor David Marr noted that if there were two or three more access/egress routes to Port Stanley there would be no traffic flow problems, but it has been looked at in every possible way and because of terrain and private property, there is no place where more access/egress routes can be added to the village.

Warren and Colborne

When the installation of a traffic light at Warren and Colborne was suggested, to flow traffic off Warren and onto Colborne, Perrin explained the criteria to install a traffic light were either the volume of traffic or the number of right angle (T-bone) accidents at that intersection. In 1997 neither criteria was met, but Perrin suggested the volume may have changed since then. A traffic light costs $175,000 to $225,000 capital cost to install, and another $10,000 per year in annual operation and maintenance costs. It was further suggested that if a traffic light was installed, one which had a sensor to operate "on demand" when there was traffic waiting to exit Warren Street would be the most effective for year round operation, remaining "green" for Colborne when there were no vehicles waiting to exit Warren Street. This idea met with general approval at this meeting and the municipal representatives promised to look into it further, stating the need to update the 1997 study and raise this issue with the County.

Main Intersection: Colborne/Bridge/Main/Joseph

Property lines and obstructions limit the amount of space and prohibit making infrastructure changes at this intersection. It was suggested that sensors and timing at the traffic light at this intersection be adjusted so that it is an "all way" walk for pedestrians, then vehicle traffic only north/south, then vehicle traffic only east/west. This way pedestrians and vehicles would not be competing for space and right of way at the same time. This idea met with general approval at this meeting and the municipal representatives promised to raise this issue with the County.

East Road/Currie/Prospect/Joseph

The proposed concept of a 4-way stop at this intersection was rejected because of the difficulty the hill coming up Joseph Street presents for standard transmission vehicles and trucks under load, especially in winter conditions. The banning of trucks from using Joseph and East Road was rejected because it is easier for trucks to go straight through from Joseph or Bridge than to turn from or onto Colborne.

Carlow and Bridge-George

The study concluded this intersection worked quite well because the raising of the lift bridge allowed for a break in traffic which allowed the traffic to flow off and onto Carlow Road. It was noted in this meeting that, depending on whether or not people blocked the access to Carlow Road on the south side of Bridge Street when the bridge was raised, affected whether or not traffic at Carlow could flow north/south through the intersection. Stopped cars on Bridge are not supposed to block the intersection while waiting for the bridge, but they often do.

William and George

The study noted a backup of traffic at this intersection "due to the complex method of traffic control". With no stop occurring for vehicles travelling west and turning left from George onto William, visitors are often confused as to whether or not they are required to stop, and travelling east on George or turning left from William onto George can be difficult if there is no break in traffic heading for the beach.

William and Edith Cavell

Everyone at the meeting agreed this was the main bottle neck of traffic during the peak tourist season. Lloyd Perrin said adding stop signs only brings traffic to a dead stop because "99 % of drivers do not know how to properly use a 4-way stop." His suggestion was to take out all the stop signs and flow the traffic in a continuously moving "circle". Engineers off whom he had sounded the idea agreed that it would work and all members at this meeting liked it once it was explained.

The Idea

Southbound traffic on William would be required to turn right onto Edith Cavell, following a one-way route west through a "turn around" at GT's, continuing one-way back east along Edith Cavell to William with a required right turn at William. Then it is south along William, navigating the "circle jerk" at Mackies and back north along William with no stop at Edith Cavell. Vehicles enter or exit the flow of traffic only from the side of the road and in the direction of the traffic flow. There would be no left turns from Edith Cavell or onto Edith Cavell, and the same with William Street. Traffic can then flow along William, exiting right onto George Street, to cross the lift bridge if the bridge is down or flow onto Carlow and then right onto Warren if the bridge is up. As long as there is easy egress from Warren onto Colborne, this would keep beach traffic flowing fairly smoothly without long delays. Residents living on the west end of Edith Cavell would enter and exit the traffic flow via the turnaround at GT's. This turnaround keeps visitor traffic away from that residential area but still allows visitor access to the municipal parking lot on the north side of Edith Cavell (the old ball park), and the municipal beach side parking lots at GT's and Caruso's by exiting and entering with the traffic flow.

The infrastructure cost to make this permanent is in the neighbourhood of $200,000. The suggestion was made that perhaps we could do this "on demand" using barricades and people directing traffic. The municipality has the barricades (which are used in emergency situations) but OPP Detachment Commander Ryan Cox informed the group than only a sworn police officer had the legal authority to direct traffic on a road unless it was an emergency situation, and an officer to direct traffic could not be made available "on demand". It had to be an officer not otherwise on duty, booked and scheduled ahead of time, and they had to be paid.

The group decided on a "test" trial of the plan for the July 1st, 2010 long weekend to see how effective this solution might be under heavy traffic volume conditions. The municipality will work out the logistics and costs involved (police officers and auxiliary police officers) and the proposal will be put to Council. If Council agrees to the test, the municipality will bear the costs involved. Port Stanley Community Policing and the municipality will provide people to monitor the other intersections of William/George, Carlow/Bridge, Bridge/Colborne, Carlow/Warren and Warren/Colborne, to gauge the total traffic flow effect.

If the test proves the plan is effective, the engineering to get the infrastructure to make it permanent so that it would be "shovel ready" in the case of new grant opportunities would not be that expensive. However, whether or not it got put into a grant application would depend on the municipality's priorities at the time.

Chief Crocker said it can take First Responders up to 20 minutes to get to a call when there is a traffic grid lock. They have considered using ATV's so they can squeeze through but Ryan Cox said when the OPP tried them, they have no radios and you can't arrest anyone because you can't take them with you. The OPP found ATV's had more problems than benefits.

Advance Warning Bridge is Up - Alternate Route to the Beach

The municipality agreed to look into the timing of the flashing light on this sign, so that it starts flashing 90 seconds ahead of when the bridge is lifted, to give people time to take advantage of the Alternate Route to the Beach. It was also suggested that two alternately flashing lights on this sign might be more effective than the current single flashing light, in order to attract motorists' attention to the Alternate Route.

As Kettle Creek is considered a navigable waterway, the creek has Right of Way. The bridge goes up from May to mid-November every half hour on the half hour and hour, unless there is a commercial fishing tug waiting to pass and then it will raise on demand. It does not raise if there are no boats waiting to pass. Because the creek has Right of Way, raising the lift bridge is something we just have to live with.

Right Turn Only Flashing Light

It was also suggested that a "Right Turn" symbol sign with a flashing red light atop it (similar to what is often seen at "Stop" signs) at the corner of Colborne to turn onto Bridge Street might be installed so visitors would be more aware that at this intersection, the southbound right lane is a turning only lane and not a through lane.

Parking

Councillor David Marr said he has always thought solving the parking problems would, in themselves, solve the traffic problems.

Beach Parking

Even if paid parking is introduced, the municipality is limited by various lease agreements as to how much it can charge for parking; therefore, costly infrastructure solutions like a parking garage or paved parking lots must be balanced against potential parking revenues from only 12 weeks in the summer. For example, paving the beach side parking lot by GT's so lines can be painted and increase the number of spots would run around $390,000 (bed and paving). By the time parking revenues had recouped the cost, it would be time to pave it again. Paving the municipal parking lot on the north side would cost even more, and a parking garage for that lot would cost in the millions.

It was suggested, if not paving, then painting line markings on the posts to encourage better use of the available parking spaces and this was met with general approval. The municipality agreed to look into this proposal.

There was general agreement that the time for paid beach side parking had come, to help offset costs and build up the Parking Reserve Fund for future use.

Downtown Parking

Adding another municipal parking lot downtown did not seem to generate much enthusiasm. John Robinson explained their (his and co-owners) downtown lot was closed to the public because of liability issues. While the harbour development plans which will add 150 parking spaces downtown seems to be favoured by the municipality, they admitted that adding that whole development may also attract 150 more cars, so it could be a neutral gain.

Parking Enforcement

It was noted that illegal parking around Spicer's Bakery on both Bridge and Main streets created a serious and hazardous traffic flow problem. The parking enforcement by-law officer and the OPP have been issuing tickets for this, and the Chief By-law officer and Chief Building Official have also been instructed by the municipality to issue parking tickets any time they see someone illegally parked in this area. To issue the parking infraction you must catch the person in the act - it cannot be phoned in later.

Municipal representatives said a lot of parking tickets were issued this year at the beach and downtown but that it does not deter illegal parking. Even increasing the price of the fines, which must be approved by the province, does not deter it. "People view it as just the price of parking for the day." Business owners agreed.

Shuttles and Commuter Trains

The Port Stanley Terminal Rail said running a commuter train is cost prohibitive because of regulations and liability, making the idea of out-of-town parking lots and commuter trains not viable. Shuttle buses have been tried repeatedly by various groups but they fail to attract ridership. "People want to use their own cars and they don't want to walk anywhere or any distance" was heard from person after person around the table. This is one of the big drawbacks to establishing an overflow municipal parking lot on the old Shamrock Chemical site on Carlow Road. As well, that site has a provincial lien against it in the neighbourhood of $1 million for the clean up the province did on the site. Don Leitch informed the group the contamination was merely contained so it would not migrate off the site, not cleaned up, and the same was true of the Ultramar site. There would also be the cost of an Environmental Assessment to determine if it could even be safely used as a paved parking lot, as well as the cost of paving it. Councillor David Marr said that new legislation regarding "brownfields" might open up some potential uses for the site, but there was still the problem of the lien, which meant developing it in any way could be very, very expensive.

Conclusions

The Port Stanley Community Policing Committee did not want to see the results of this meeting going nowhere and end up as just "so much dust on the floor". They wanted to see an on-going follow up and real results being implemented.

To this end Lloyd Perrin agreed to get together with Ryan Cox and work out the logistics and costs of the proposed "test", and report on it (and the light at Warren/Colborne, the timing of the Alternate Route signal, the timing of the only existing traffic light, and the recommendation to update the 1997 study) to Council. David Marr agreed that Council would then report back in January or February to the Port Stanley Community Policing Committee on the follow up. It was also agreed there would be continued vigilance regarding the illegal parking around Spicer's Bakery.


Last Updated: Thursday, 09 May 2019 13:28:48 PM EST

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