Town council approves repaving of Sandwich St. and realignment of lanes

Traffic moves on Sandwich St. July 14 at the Richmond St. intersection. The road will be repaved and turned into a three-lane highway as council approved the work at its July 14 meeting. The County of Essex will pick up a portion of the cost.

Traffic moves on Sandwich St. July 14 at the Richmond St. intersection. The road will be repaved and turned into a three-lane highway as council approved the work at its July 14 meeting. The County of Essex will pick up a portion of the cost.

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has agreed to a $1.2 million project to repave Sandwich St. and realign it into a three-lane highway.

The roadway will be repaved from William St. to Lowes Side Road with the realignment of lanes into a three-lane configuration mainly happening between McCurdy Dr. and William St. Under the plan, there will be a northbound lane, a southbound lane and a centre left-turn lane.

The cost will see over $748,000 come from the town with the remaining $468,800 coming from the County of Essex. The 2014 capital budget included $562,000 for this project, leaving a shortfall of $186,651 to complete the work. A total of $100,000 will come out of the tar and chip program this year and the top coat of asphalt on a Bob-lo Island roadway is expected to offset that shortfall.

Scott Fortner, a traffic engineer with the MMM Group Ltd., noted that the original study was done in 2008 with a review in 2010. He believed that converting from a wide two-lane highway to a three-lane highway with a centre left-turn lane would “improve vehicle tracking and improve vehicle predictability,” which could lead to a reduction in collisions. Reducing lane widths could also see speeds reduced thus improving safety.

Fortner acknowledged there is parking allowed at various points along Sandwich St. S. and those would be removed with the lane realignment. He estimated that would mean the loss of 53 parking spots along that stretch of highway.

With regards to bike lanes, he said there is not enough room to accommodate bike lanes in both directions or a shared bike lane as between 13.1 metres and 14.5 meters is needed. While the width of Sandwich St. varies in locations, the width averages at about 12.45 metres. He added that traffic counts are over 15,000 vehicles in the majority of the study area with speeds of 50 km/hr thus he couldn’t recommend on-road bike lanes.

Councillor Carolyn Davies said bike lanes were a big concern to her and hoped something could be designed so that future councils could look at having bike lanes installed. She said society is moving from vehicular traffic to bicycle traffic.

“My biggest concern is bike lanes,” said Davies. “I am absolutely petrified that someone is going to die on a bike on Sandwich St.”

Davies added: “I think we will be shooting ourselves in the foot without figuring out a way of dealing with this.”

Believing there is still a lot of parking in town, Davies further called for additional signage to tell motorists where the parking is.

Councillor John Sutton believed the realignment would improve safety on the road. He said there isn’t enough space for bike lanes without buying additional properties.

Fortner noted that actuation loops were removed or damaged due to construction activity along Sandwich St. over the years and that those loops would be reinstalled as part of the project. He said the traffic signals would work better with those loops and that could improve traffic flow.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she was opposed to the plan. Part of it was the shortfall that she said would eliminate most of the tar and chip program this year.

“I’m very concerned that businesses and residents haven’t been notified they are losing 53 parking spaces,” said Pouget.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland said he originally opposed the project but later realized the county was “paying a good portion” of it. He said he was told by county engineer Tom Bateman the funding could theoretically be moved to another project if the Sandwich St. project did not proceed.

“The time has come where we can’t wait anymore,” said Sutherland.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said the project has been delayed for at least five years.

“The longer you wait, the more it’s going to cost,” he said.

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