COLUMN: Driving Cornwall

MORRISBURG — Driving around Cornwall has always been an interesting experience. A myriad of one-way streets, or two-way streets that become one-way streets. A traffic circle that is round, but not a roundabout. And streets that are connected by name, but have large gaps between their different segments. All of these things are an annoyance to the casual visitor to Cornwall, but must be a downright nuisance to the residents. There needs to be some adjustments to Cornwall’s streets, and the city is on the ball with this. So on the ball that the residents did not know of a major reconstruction planned for Centretown, including two new roundabouts, not traffic circles, and connecting the dots on an east-west street.

As reported by Cornwall Newswatch, the city held a public meeting in October(!) on the plan to connect the portions of Lemay Street into one thoroughfare, with roundabouts put at the intersections of Lemay and McConnell, and Lemay, Sydney and Thirteenth. These roundabouts would provide for better traffic control for the intersections and, according to the engineers, be safer than traffic lights. While this writer is not a university-educated engineer, it is easy to see that there are few issues with this plan.

Connecting the dots to make Lemay a complete street between Sydney and McConnell may look good at the outset, except that adding another east-west connector in the city will alter traffic patterns in Centretown. This will lead to increased traffic through this Centretown residential neighbourhood. The city plans sidewalks and bike lanes, but that will do little to slow down vehicular traffic.

Adding to this is the controversial roundabout, not one, but two of them. Traffic lights are more expensive to install and have a higher operating cost than a circle of asphalt and some road paint. The city has decided to forgo the technological wonders of the world and instead trust in a driver’s ability to remember the rules of yielding. Anyone who has been at a four-way stop intersection in Eastern Ontario can attest to the lack of remembrance of the rules there. The McConnell/Lemay roundabout would be at the foot of the railway overpass which is also a speed reduction zone. The Sydney/Lemay/Thirteenth roundabout is in a mixed business/residential area with many egress points to the said-streets. It is a high-density residential area which means pedestrian traffic. And with a mixture of two-way and one-way streets, adding the rules for that into the roundabout mix is asking for trouble. Regardless of what the engineers state about accident prevention in roundabouts, vehicles are not the only concern in a city intersection.

The sad part of the issue is that residents are only learning of the city’s “solution” a month after the public meeting. No one in the public saw fit to go to the meeting. Residents are too complacent when it comes to how administration operates their city and how city council governs. Showing up at the ballot box once every four years is not participating in local governance.

To fix the traffic situation in Centretown, a traditional or conventional thought process is needed. Intersections with traffic lights, crosswalks and proper markings are in order for both connections. Consideration for increased traffic through the neighbourhood along Lemay needs to be made with either crosswalks with signals, or traffic calming measures like speed bumps and targeted enforcement by city police. Bike lanes are fine, but the city should ensure the markings are visible, unlike Second Street.

Lastly, the city needs to sort out the issue with one-way streets. Before the Cornwall promenade “outdoor mall” occurred, Pitt and Sydney streets were both two-way streets. Both streets need to revert to that status again to simplify movement in the Centretown and Downtown areas. That will change traffic patterns in the city and maybe even alleviate some congestion issues.

Drivers and pedestrians need safe and simple pathways to get from Point A to Point B. Roundabouts have their place when it comes to solving traffic solutions. They may be good for areas with no pedestrian traffic, but in a city, like Cornwall, they should not be used. There is nothing wrong with tried and true technology for controlling traffic, vehicular and pedestrian.

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