Main Street will reopen to traffic before the snow flies, Huntsville council heard during an update at its October 25 meeting.
Director of infrastructure and protective services Steve Hernen told council that the work had not pushed past the Centre Street intersection this year the way it was hoped.
Hernen said from Centre Street down to the swing bridge, all of the sidewalks, curbs, and streetlights will be installed. The crosswalk will be in place, the area in front of Town Hall as well as King Street will be completed shortly, and the contractor is currently working in Kent Park and that is expected to be finished in the next couple of weeks.
As winter operations begin to kick in, things like trees, boulders, and other ‘Muskoka moments’ elements will be put off until next spring.
“So basically, by mid to the end of November the construction will be wrapped up for the season, the detour routes will be down, traffic will be travelling as normal up Main Street if they want,” he said. “So everything is progressing well and that’s where we’ll leave it for this year.”
District director of engineering and transportation Mark Misko gave council an overview of what to expect next year. He said they’d like to start work as soon as the frost is out of the ground. “We’d like to close that Centre and Main Street intersection for three or four weeks right out of the gate next year,” he warned. “There’s some Bell work that needs to be done in there for their utilities. The safest way to do it is to completely close that intersection.”
Misko said the plan is to have detours in place and communicate with the public well in advance of the closure “before the snow is gone so everyone should be in the loop on how they can get through the downtown core with that intersection closure.”
He said once the intersection opens again work will progress up to Lorne Street. “What we’re looking at at that point is once that intersection is reopened we can flip the detours around and close that next section of roadway and once again we’ll communicate that well in advance so the public’s aware how to get through the downtown core.”
Hernen also told council that the Empire lot has been rented to be used as a staging area.
Councillor Dan Armour asked about the closure of the Centre Street intersection and asked what detour they had in mind. He noted that the Lorne and Main Street intersection is very busy and dangerous.
Hernen said those travelling up Main Street will be detoured by Huntsville Public School. While those travelling from Main Street West will have to detour through Lorne Street as far as West Street, depending on their final destination.
Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano expressed concern about access to pedestrian traffic. “Pedestrian traffic through this entire project was not as good as we were promised it would be. People were having to walk from Brunel Road all the way to Centre Street to cross the road,” she said.
Hernen said that had been done to combine stages and make up for lost time due to weather.
Terziano wanted to know how, once the Main and Centre street intersection is finished, the contractor will access the top of Main Street. “They can’t have construction equipment coming out the back and going down Centre Street to get up to… between Centre and Lorne. They need a staging area up in the construction area don’t they?”
Hernen said the contractor knows access is required there. “So if kids are coming along Centre Street we’re not going to be sending them down to the Town Hall to get across or sending them up to the top of Lorne. They’ve got to get across somewhere in the vicinity of the post office building,” said Hernen, adding that the mayor’s concerns had been duly noted and said he is sure that Misko is taking notes and ensuring that area is well controlled.
“I’ll just go on the record Mark to say that I realize when Centre Street is going to be closed for four weeks it’ll be tough but my fear is that Centre Street, the intersection there, will end up being closed for three months and that won’t be acceptable,” said Terziano, adding that she hoped a contingency plan was in place.
Misko said that is not the intention. He said if they do need to encroach on the intersection it would be through lane shifts.
“I’ll be honest, it’s going to be tight working in that area in Stage Four but the good news is we’ve got the winter to finalize our game plan in that area. That’s one of the reasons we held off from going into that intersection this early is if we get into it and we get halfway into it and then winter sets in, it’s going to be essentially what it is all winter,” said Misko, adding that they’d rather get a clean and fresh start next spring.
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