One way or another, a dangerous intersection in Midland is looking to become more efficient for traffic and safer for the public.
A draft traffic calming policy is up for approval by town council following a recent committee of the whole meeting, as part of a long-running measure to reduce the potential for traffic incidents along 'unintentionally' busy streets.
In addition to an upcoming public consultation regarding the report, several pilot locations were suggested based on residents’ submitted comments to a 2021 multi-modal transportation master plan (MTMP) provided by Stantec Consulting Ltd.
Roughly three-quarters of the submissions concerned speed, but a few, including Bay and First Streets, requested a four-way stop. Currently, the flow of traffic goes through west-and-east along Bay Street, with stop signs for north and south First Street.
Despite other four-way stop requests in the draft traffic calming policy being granted, the MTMP recommendation for First Street was to remove those stop signs and place them on Bay Street, allowing for a north-and-south flow instead, thereby dismissing the four-way stop request altogether.
Business owners Scott Campbell of Grounded Coffee Co. at 538 Bay Street and Paul Wilson of Busy Bee Taxi Inc. at 539 Bay Street have shared their concerns over the intersection, located one block west of the central King Street downtown core.
“I guess it kind of scares me,” said Campbell of the report’s recommendation.
“I think about one of these big trucks coming down First Street. So they’re going to leave a four-way stop at Dominion (Avenue) and First, and not have to stop until Bayshore (Drive) now instead of stopping at Bay, which puts any pedestrians coming from the King Street area across First,” said Campbell. “They will have to cross that way with large trucks coming down the hill.”
Campbell, who is also the chair and president of the Midland BIA, had been part of the informal discussions for traffic calming back in 2019 and had addressed his concerns for Bay and First in an email to council at that time.
He was instructed by the town to register an E11 bylaw complaint in Dec. 2019, which was returned to Campbell in Aug 2020 as resolved. An additional inquiry by Campbell revealed the concern hadn’t been resolved, but merely moved to an engineering department for further review.
Wilson had also sent numerous emails to council regarding the intersection, and was instructed last month by Coun. Beth Prost to fill out an E11 as well.
“There are near misses at this intersection everyday between cars and pedestrians,” wrote Wilson in an email sent to Midland council.
“If you drive by,” Wilson continued, “you'll experience first hand the tension and confusion between the motorists and pedestrians on who has the right of way and whether they should stop or sail through the intersection.”
Added Campbell, “There was a pilot project done at Elizabeth and King where they changed that into a four-way, and people lost their minds at first. They thought this was the most ridiculous thing.
"But then, everyone started to appreciate that they could walk safely across the intersection with their small child in-tow, going toward the MCC or the library. All of a sudden it started to make sense.”
During last month's committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Jonathan Main addressed the correspondence from citizens close to Bay and First.
Citing the recommendation to turn the north-south stop into a west-east stop, Main asked, “Is a four-way stop sign appropriate for that intersection? I know the Bayshore-to-Bay (section) is very short, but just for turning movements it might solve some problems.”
In response, Andy Campbell, executive director of environment and infrastructure, explained, “It is the problem that you turn southbound off Bayshore and you immediately hit a stop sign today; that’s causing part of the problem.
"From a traffic engineering side, that should be the throughput that is our truck route. All the trucks are going there, and it should have the stop control in the east-west direction. So our recommendation in this report is to switch that around. Let’s give it a try, it should work better.”
For Andy Campbell, the best case scenario would be one involving “safe traffic movements and pedestrian crossing.”
He added that one public session will be held online due to COVID-19 protocols at a date yet to be determined.
"If someone has a comment today, please send it in as they don’t have to wait," he said.
The bylaw will be brought to Midland council during the next regular meeting on June 16.
Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca