Beckwith Street project was award finalist

·3 min read

The much-discussed Beckwith Street project in Smiths Falls was a finalist in the province for a top road paving award.

In a release the week of March 22, the Town of Smiths Falls announced the project, completed in collaboration with Tomlinson, was one of three finalists for municipal paving awards from the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) for 2020.

"We are so pleased to receive provincial recognition as a finalist for the municipal paving award," said Mayor Shawn Pankow in a release.

The top honours for the fourth annual award went to the City of Hamilton and Steed and Evans Ltd. for a reconstruction project. The other finalist alongside Smiths Falls and Hamilton was the County of Simcoe.

Dr. James Smith, manager of technical programs and research at the OGRA, was one of the people who determined the final three nominees and winner.

He said the Beckwith Street project stood out for several reasons, including best practices used for quality of pavement, considering the effects phase one would have on phase two and the staging that allowed for one lane to remain open throughout the process.

"It was just really a great project that was executed very well," said Smith. "It was great to see the complete street idea incorporated into the project."

Smith also complimented the project for taking into account heritage buildings.

Managing the flow of traffic with one lane while construction was ongoing was akin to a symphony, with everybody having to play their part, said Troy Dunlop, director of public works and utilities for the town.

"There is so much coordination," said Dunlop. "Communicating each of the stages of the project is really important."

The need for coordination was why the town released updates at minimum once a month, sometimes twice, since construction began. The monthly updates were another reason Smith said the project was nominated.

Phase one of the Beckwith Street project, completed November last year, saw below and above-ground reconstruction of the major thoroughfare from Chambers Street to Russell Street.

The project has been controversial at times for some of the redesign done to the street. The construction did away with angled parking in favour of parallel parking, added cycling lanes and widened sidewalks.

The opposition was vigorous enough that the town issued a statement a year ago saying workers on site had been subjected to "unwelcome comments," and were photographed and videotaped.

Despite the opposition, the project continued on, with the town determined to make the street a more accessible location for people. Four traffic signals were replaced to meet standards for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

"We knew we needed to create a much more welcoming and a safer and much more accessible downtown," said Pankow in a video announcement for the phase one completion in November.

Dunlop acknowledged the initial proposals were not resonating with people. But now that phase one is complete, he says the town has received a lot of positive feedback.

While a project of this magnitude would have been a challenge in any typical year, Smith said that the COVID-19 pandemic meant the team at Tomlinson had to go "above and beyond," to ensure the safety of themselves and the public.

Robert Enright, project manager with Tomlinson for Beckwith Street, said the entire team was proud of the work completed.

"This project was a privilege to be a part of; with so many different divisions of Tomlinson working together as one team to complete the project on time and during a pandemic," Enright said in the release.

The second phase of the project will cover the thoroughfare length from Russell Street to Elmsley Street. No date has been set for when construction on the second phase will begin, but designs for the northern section of the street were discussed during a town meeting in February.

Dunlop said online public consultation will be starting soon.

Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times