Fixing Moncton's 'road diet' could cost up to $6.5 million

A consultant's report has determined Moncton's "road diet" tested on a stretch of Mountain Road near the casino has failed.

The city changed the four-lane roadway between Front Mountain Road and Woodhaven Court to three lanes last year. A middle lane served as a shared left-turn lane. Bike lanes were also added along each side. 

Meant to slow traffic, the changes had a minimal impact on speeding and created congestion and longer wait times at various intersections, the study by Exp Services Inc. found.

The study, which cost about $96,700, calls for keeping Front Mountain Road to Ensley Drive as three lanes but changing the rest back to four lanes.

That would also result in eliminating the bike lanes. The calls instead for a multi-use path separated from traffic. 

"That's not safe," Coun. Bryan Butler said of the current painted line separating fast-moving traffic from the bike lanes. "A line on a road is a false security for anybody."

Shane Magee/CBC

Short-term fixes, including returning most of the stretch to four lanes, would cost an estimated $174,000.

Longer-term fixes could cost $6.5 million, a price tag that doesn't include buying land.

City councillors voted unanimously Monday to defer the long-term recommendations to future budget discussions, though staff said most of the short-term changes will be carried out in the spring.  

Butler raised concerns last year soon after the city reduced the lanes on Mountain Road and started what city engineer Alcide Richard had called a road diet.

Butler said he'd heard concerns from residents about the changes and almost got into a head-on crash himself because of the reconfigured  road.

Councillors voted to revert back to a four-lane configuration, but then later voted to hold off on any changes for a year while the issue was studied. 

The study found a slight decrease in the number of crashes and speed but increased congestion in certain spots. 

Most vehicles were travelling at 70 km/h, well above the 50 km/h speed limit. 

We know that all of Mountain Road is a really difficult stretch for people to bike on, but it's also a really important artery for our city. - Krista Cowling

To slow drivers, the study called for narrower travel lanes, landscaping and boulevard features as well as speed display signs.

As such measures may not be enough, it recommended the separated multi-use path to accommodate cyclists.  

National guidelines for roadway design suggest that protected bike lanes or multi-use paths be used along arterial roads when speeds are more than 50 km/h.

Building the separated multi-use path could require purchasing or expropriating land.

"There's a lot of part of Mountain Road where we don't have that much land adjacent to the sidewalk," Jack MacDonald, Moncton's general manager of engineering and environmental services, told city councillors Monday. 

Submitted/City of Moncton

The study collected data on cyclists using the bike lanes over a 12-hour period on two different days this year. 

On June 18, two cyclists were counted using the bike lanes, while 14 rode on the sidewalk. On July 4, eight used the bike lane and 14 used the sidewalk.  

Krista Cowling is an active transportation advocate. She told Information Morning Moncton that the study appeared to prioritize how to get vehicles moving through the area.

"We know that all of Mountain Road is a really difficult stretch for people to bike on, but it's also a really important artery for our city," she said.  

Having infrastructure that's easy to use and protected would help boost active transit use, she said. 

The city also plans to reexamine its active transportation plan to encourage non-motorized transport.

The study also found traffic lights are already needed at the intersection with Mountain Road and the westbound Trans-Canada Highway ramp. It suggested investigating whether a roundabout at that location could work.