Car-azy Midland intersection risks safety after anticipated stop sign switch

·4 min read

It seems everyone could see the warning signs from at least a block away.

Grounded Coffee owner Scott Campbell pleaded for action regarding the two-way stop that happened earlier this week, instead asking once again for it to become a pedestrian-friendly four-way stop.

In a letter sent to environment and infrastructure executive director Andy Campbell, and forwarded to Midland council and staff, a request was put forward to turn the Bay Street and First Street intersection into a four-way stop.

“I’m passionate enough about this that I don’t feel that waiting for the (draft traffic calming) public meeting is best for my mental health,” Scott Campbell began, “and I can’t in good conscience wait that long to express the safety concerns I’m hearing and witnessing.

“With all due respect to you and your staff, and council that approved the change to signage at the First and Bay intersection, I cannot seem to wrap my head around the decision to not move to a 4-way stop.”

Recently, council approved speed reductions and new stop signs on many of the town’s intersections as per staff’s traffic calming recommendations, aimed at reducing potential incidents along unintentionally busy streets.

Within the recommendations was to change the flow of Bay Street’s east-and-west traffic to a north-and-south flow along First Street.

Scott Campbell, who is also the president and chair of the Downtown BIA, sat on the 2015 downtown Midland master plan and community improvement plan committee throughout its entirety, and pointed out a part of the plan which he felt wasn’t given enough weight.

Overall goal #2 in the plan focuses on making the town more inviting and comfortable for pedestrian access, with foot traffic on streets surrounding King Street improved to support local businesses. “Vehicular traffic should move slowly through downtown, and pedestrian crossings should feel safe,” the study reads.

“I feel that by catering to the truck route, you have either overlooked (the #2 overall goal) or have given priority to delivery trucks over pedestrians,” he stated.

A call-for-action was initiated by Grounded Coffee through its social media presence, imploring residents to contact Midland staff and petition for the intersection to receive a four-way stop.

However, the intersection at Bay Street and First Street isn’t without its own set of pre-existing problems.

The intersection is host to Grounded Coffee on the northwest corner, a Busy Bee Taxi on the southwest corner, a travel business on the southeast corner, and a municipal parking lot on the northeast corner where each Sunday a pedestrian-friendly farmer’s market is held.

Grounded Coffee sees a large number of vehicles stopping for coffee runs, including one open space directly at the northwest corner of the intersection, which vehicles uses, but that's not designated for parking. The travel business also is situated within a building that juts out far, creating a blind spot to cross-traffic for those heading north along First Street.

Many work vehicles overflow Busy Bee’s own driveway and adjacent parking spots at busy times for the company, causing unexpected congestion as taxis jostle for positions.

“It's generally an already busy intersection even without these two businesses, but I would never refer to it as congested,” replied Paul Wilson, owner of Busy Bee Taxi. “People are still stopping for the east/westbound because humans are creatures of habit. They should have left those signs there.

“The only logical and safest solution to this intersection is to make it a four-way stop as originally requested to the town.”

Andy Campbell asserted that the public meeting on August 24 at 7:00 p.m. is in regards to the draft traffic calming policy for dealing with stop signs, and the approach to approving requests for traffic calming issues.

“The installation of what is referred to under law as ‘regulatory sign’ should not be based on popularity polls, rather on established ‘warrants’ that can be defended in court,” wrote Andy Campbell. “When a municipality installs an unwarranted sign it can be liable in court.

"One problem in Midland is that the traffic volumes are so low that the standard provincial warrants are not met in some cases.”

He added that the town is following the process for adopting alternative warrants through policy and council approval currently.

Further information on the town’s traffic calming programs can be found on the Engaging Midland website page.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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