In an effort to address both traffic flow and parking issues downtown, Huntsville council is considering converting some streets to one-way. A decision will have to wait for another time, however.
On September 29, staff were asked to investigate the possibility of making Caroline St. W., High/Minerva, and Princess Streets one-way.
They returned with a report to the Nov. 24 general committee meeting with a recommendation to hire a traffic consultant at an estimated cost of $15,000 for Caroline Street and $20,000 for the streets to the south of Main Street.
The Caroline St. W study would encompass North Dufferin St. to Centre St. N and Main St. W to Susan St. W, as well as Lorne St. N and the associated intersections.
The High St. and Princess St. study would comprise from Centre St. S to River St. and Main St. to Veterans Way and also include Minerva St. E, Mary St. E and West St. S. and their associated intersections.
Kevin Boucock, manager of operations for the Town, noted that a study would have to wait until after Main Street construction is completed in 2022. Staff recommend a traffic consultant due to the complexity of the area with a school on Caroline Street and Brunel Road being a District road.
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe opened the committee discussion with the comment that he’d be “inclined to say let’s just do it and then study how it goes.”
Councillor Tim Withey said he thought the cost was expensive, and that he was interested in Wiebe’s suggestion. “I just don’t know that it’s worth it for what we’re trying to do.”
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock questioned if the traffic counts were something a summer student could do, but Boucock said the study would be more involved than that.
“We have machines that can do traffic counts, but when it comes to looking at traffic flow and traffic patterns, especially when you’re dealing with a school… is it [one-way] all the way [down Caroline Street], do you have to make Susan one-way now, do you have to make Lorne Street one-way now to accommodate that. There’s a lot of details…now you’re back to looking at Main and Lorne Street and how the traffic’s going to flow there and how that’s going to change the traffic patterns… it’s doing the field research to see which way the volume’s going to go, which way the traffic’s going to go.”
Councillor Jason FitzGerald said he felt the cost would be worth it. “I think if this is something we are going to entertain we are going to have to do it as thoroughly and expansive as possible to ensure we are going to improve the situation.”
Councillor Dan Armour concurred, adding that there’s “nothing saying we have to implement it but I think we need to get it down on paper for sure and it should be done by professionals.”
Councillor Bob Stone, meanwhile, said the cost was too high, and that he’s “not a fan of one-way streets. I think it’s quite confusing to visitors, so I won’t be supporting it.”
Councillor Brian Thompson was most concerned about sightlines. “…[A]nything coming off of High Street onto Brunel or Princess onto Brunel or River Street onto Brunel… those sightlines are iffy at the very very best of times. I’d like to have a professional opinion on that. And the whole idea of a one-way street on Caroline does concern me a lot with regards to the school there as well.”
Mayor Karin Terziano changed the course of the discussion by questioning whether 2022 was the appropriate timing for the study.
“We don’t know when our traffic flow will return to normal with the completion of [Main Street construction],” she said. “I don’t know if this study should be done in the summer when we have the highest traffic, however at that time school buses aren’t running… Before we would spend any money in the Caroline area, we need to find out from the school board whether they would be agreeable to changing any bussing routes.”
She suggested that staff approach the school board first, and then look to completing the traffic study in 2023.
Councillors FitzGerald and Wiebe were quick to agree, with Wiebe adding, “I hope next council doesn’t let it go. As we know pre-COVID, the traffic’s brutal. Anything we do there is going to be an improvement. And the safety onto Brunel and off Brunel is of paramount concern. I don’t know if there’s any signage now that we can put in but I just think it’s really important that we keep our eye on it. We’ve had accidents there, fatalities there, you know we can’t forget that what we’ve got is actually kind of a bad situation that does need addressing.”
The matter was postponed for later discussion once more normalized traffic has returned in the downtown core, with the cost of the traffic study to be added to the 2023 draft budget for consideration.
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