Kington to consider new design for Princess Street in Williamsville

Kingston's Environment, Infrastructure & Transportation Policies (EITP) Committee will receive the final report on the Williamsville Transportation Study on Tuesday night.

The final plan that would then be recommended to City Council would be a phased approach at redesigning a stretch of Princess Street between Concession Street to Division and prioritizing public transit and pedestrian transportation.

The redesign will get underway in tandem with planned underground construction in that stretch of Princess Street and will see additions that include cycle tracks and a neighbourhood cycling network, expanded pedestrian space, and green space in many parts of the road - while also trying to improve efficiency for transit.

Ultimately the goals of the redesign are to boost the efficiency of transit while maintaining the same level of traffic flow on Princess Street, and also maximizing pedestrian walkability and green space.

To begin with, the street isn't particularly wide, and Kingston's Director of Transportation & Transit Ian Semple says that it's a balancing act of what different people consider to be the top priorities when it comes to a redesign.

"This section of Princess Street, it's very narrow compared to other roadways, but critically narrow if we're trying to accommodate all of these uses," Semple said.

"So that's why we had set some priorities about what we were going to accommodate and what might be a trade off."

Initially plans that were suggested didn't include bike lanes, but when presented for community consultation, groups including the Williamsville Community Association and Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation (KCAT) came forward with concerns.

The city has taken that feedback and after a few iterations have come up with an alternative that does include cycling lanes with a small curb to separate them from the road way.

With those trade offs that Semple mentioned, however, there will be slightly less frequent transit service than first planned and less available left turn lanes in the section, and several areas throughout the street will also see a significant reduction in amenities like trees and benches.

However for those in the area looking to bike, the reduction of those elements, of bus service from every 5 minutes to every 10, and the elimination of two left turn lanes are worthwhile sacrifices to make way for everything else in the mock up of the newly imagined Princess Street.

Bruce Bursey of KCAT says the group is happy to see the changes, as they know making that roadway safely bikeable was something that the local community wanted to see.

"This is not new to us in KCAT, but it's being validated... it was really rewarding to see the recommended proposal," Bursey said.

"They heard what the community said, and the reasons, the need for safety."

Going forward with the plan as stated, rather than a previous proposal that further emphasized transit and easing the flow of traffic, does mean however that it's more likely that future traffic restrictions within the stretch are revisited and implemented.

Semple added that while there is a reduction in green space and general pedestrian space, changes still should make the stretch more walkable than it currently is.

"We're not compromising the accessibility of the pedestrian realm here," Semple said.

"It's just the amount of space available to the pedestrians is smaller in some sections and we're not able to get as many of those green elements that were desired initially."

Without those elements, the new roadway will further emphasize transport within the corridor as opposed to providing more space for pedestrians to spend time.

Several rounds of feedback have led the city to the Alternative 2B proposal which will go in front of the EITP committee on Tuesday night, and it could be in front of city council as soon as next week if it's approved as expected.

Semple says while several elements look quite different than when first presented, there is confidence that the proposal finds a good balance.

"We think it [Alternative 2B] best reflects what the Community has indicated they desire now in the corridor and but practically puts it together with the space that we have available," Semple said.

If approved by the EITP Committee and then by Kingston City Council on June 4, reconstruction would be expected to take place in 2025 and 2026.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News