The Town of Huntsville will be solving one of its sidewalk network issues this year. On the west side of Chaffey Street between Manominee and Cann Streets there is a seasonal parking area that is also used by pedestrians although it’s not intended for that use.
“This little stretch of land doubles up as parking, as a makeshift sidewalk and a bus stop and it doesn’t function well for any one of those three,” the Town’s Director of Operations and Protective Services, Steve Hernen, told General Committee at its February 28 meeting.
He noted that in the winter that section can’t be maintained by plows because of the curb cuts, but that people still try to walk through the snow banks. In the summer months, when cars are parked, there isn’t enough space for people using mobility devices to use it as a sidewalk. And the Huntsville Transit bus has to either stop in the road or go around the corner to load and offload passengers.
“Our suggestion moving forward is that we quit trying to make it all three. We would actually eliminate the parking there for the cars and sign it as such, then go in and do the necessary curb cuts and put a rumble strip in to designate a sidewalk down there that we can maintain and clean in the winter time, and it would also give us a spot for the bus to pull in safely,” said Hernen.
Councillors agreed that it’s a good idea.
“I’m hoping this marks a shift in the upgrading of our broken sidewalk networks,” said Councillor Jonathan Wiebe. “I think this is a perfect example of that and I hope there’s more to come.”
The staff report presented at the meeting noted that “the cost to create a safe pedestrian walkway which will meet accessibility requirements and a bus pull over lane will be approximately $3,000 and can be funded via the approved 2018 operation budget under sidewalk maintenance. The cost to provide winter maintenance to this sidewalk will be minimal as the sidewalk plow now passes by this area to maintain the sidewalks at either end.”
Later in the meeting, committee also discussed the lack of sidewalks on Cann Street between Chaffey and King William Streets after a resident sent letters to the Town regarding snow removal in the area. The resident was scheduled to make a deputation to committee but didn’t appear at the appointed time.
“The proponent calls it sidewalk. We don’t call it sidewalk, we call it paved shoulder,” said Hernen, adding that initial concerns were regarding the Hyundai dealership piling snow in the area behind the snowbanks created when the Town’s plows clear the road. “This has been a practice that has been accepted for the last 15 years for the dealership down there. When the snow builds up, we simply call the dealership and at their expense they truck it away.”
Hernen also said that the resident was concerned that the sidewalk in the area wasn’t being plowed. “It’s not a sidewalk, it’s a paved shoulder. You would never even be able to get a mobility device down there. It is on quite an angle.” At the other end of Cann Street, closer to Chaffey Street, Hernen said that the angle of the shoulder decreases but that it’s still considered a paved shoulder.
Several councillors said that they agreed with the assessment that there are no sidewalks on Cann Street, but that opened up a wider discussion about Huntsville’s sidewalk network.
“I concur there is no sidewalk there, but related to the presentation you made earlier about Chaffey Street, there are no shortage of examples around our community where there are no sidewalks and there were never intended to be sidewalks and that’s one thing,” said Mayor Scott Aitchison. “But there lots of other examples in the urban core, the busier part of the town, where there are connectivity issues with our sidewalks.” Aitchison wanted to know if the current sidewalk analysis being done by Town staff included those breaks in connectivity, citing Centre Street as an example.
“We are looking at that. We have half a dozen trouble areas,” said Hernen, adding that they are also looking at the issue in some of Huntsville’s subdivisions. “Does it make sense to put in sidewalks or does it make more sense to put in a metre and a half of active trail on the road divided by a rumble strip where a plow can maintain it? … When you have a plow pushing snow up on a six inch curb and a sidewalk machine trying to pile snow on a six inch curb, somebody’s going to lose every time.”
Other councillors mentioned roads that they’d like to see addressed — Councillor Nancy Alcock relayed concerns about Highview Road, Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano wondered about the commercial area of Cann Street between Chaffey and John Streets, and Councillor Jonathan Wiebe noted that connectivity is needed between downtown and McCulley-Robertson Sports Complex.
“I do appreciate the idea of having a wider strip clearly marked for active trail,” said Wiebe. “I think that could satisfy both groups and make it easier for maintenance.”
In a separate discussion, Councillor Jason FitzGerald said that the level of service for sidewalk plowing in Port Sydney is “not meeting expectations of constituents from a safety point of view and an access point of view.”
Hernen replied that there was no easy solution to the problem — Muskoka Road 10 is maintained by the District and when its plows push snow onto the sidewalks, the Town’s plows can’t always be there quickly to clear them. But he said that the sidewalk plows do clear sidewalks in the area each morning when there has been snowfall. FitzGerald added that he’d like to see better attention paid to conditions for problems like icy sections on days when there hasn’t been snowfall.
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