Traffic network’s “ripple effect” makes solving dangerous intersections no easy task - Grant Haven
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Traffic network’s “ripple effect” makes solving dangerous intersections no easy task

Traffic network’s “ripple effect” makes solving dangerous intersections no easy task

Stewart Grant

A letter from concerned resident Chris Swarthout sparked an interesting discussion during the August 22nd Council meeting regarding the overall Road Safety Network Plan.
Swarthout submitted a letter to Council on August 14th about Park Street where it meets King Street at the curve, and the stretch of Park Street that goes past Cadzow Park to Water Street.

“My concern is there is no stop sign from Elizabeth Street until you reach Water Street. People have increasingly used this street as a way to avoid the lights downtown. Not all people, but some, and repeat offenders think this street is a raceway. They’re able to pick up considerable speed in between Elizabeth Street and Water Street.”

He continued, “There have been several near misses at the curve with people going too fast and cutting the corner. I watched someone lose control of their vehicle and fishtail into my neighbour’s laneway. Moments before, he and his kids had been playing hockey there. It could have been a disaster, if not deadly. Cadzow Park is also along this stretch of road with children and families crossing the street all day long. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or killed due to people being careless and speeding along this stretch of road.”

Swarthout’s letter, which Council resolved to pass to the upcoming Community Policing Advisory Committee (CPAC) meeting on September 20th, provided helpful feedback on a problematic traffic area in town. It also provided another example of how traffic patterns evolve over time due to the choices of drivers to avoid certain areas (in this case, the traffic lights downtown).

Councillor Marg Luna, citing the recent accident at Jones and Church Street, expressed frustration that a short-term solution couldn’t be enacted to prevent future accidents. “I’m not understanding why we need to wait for a plan to be presented before we can do something about these concerns,” she remarked to Jed Kelly, Director of Public Works.
Kelly said that staff has been collecting information and are developing criteria on how to analyze that intersection against other intersections and are preparing to present a list of possible mitigation strategies for Church and Jones at the September CPAC meeting.

Councillor Jim Craigmile remarked, “I tend to agree a little bit with Councillor Luna, however I know that there’s numerous intersections in town that are bad and one of the things that I don’t have a grasp on is that are we directing a lot more traffic onto some of those roads because they’re avoiding other bad turns. So, I can see the one from Mr. Swarthout here and I can see that one on Church, that they’re probably avoiding other areas, so we’ve increased traffic on that area.”

Kelly agreed, saying, “Anytime you have a change in the road network, it’s going to ripple out like a stone in a still pond. You put a stop sign here, and suddenly you create traffic over there. We certainly saw that on Huron and Waterloo, for example. We put stop signs in for pedestrian connectivity when the school moved, and we turned Waterloo effectively into a local collector. To generate that kind of data, you’d have to be looking at a much larger traffic study to see how that traffic pattern would move through the network.”

Luna agreed on this cause-and-effect impact, noting that she is one of many residents who have opted to use the Church and Jones intersection to avoid the Queen and James Street intersection which is at times “impossible” to make a left-hand turn onto Queen. “I’m still not happy that we’re waiting [to fix Jones and Church] but that’s just my opinion.
Councillor Brogan Aylward wondered about the feasibility of increasing police presence in response to Mr. Swarthout’s concerns.

Town of St. Marys CAO Brent Kittmer said, “One of the advantages of having the Stratford Police Service is that they are very responsive, so that’s why in the resolution we’ve forwarded [Swarthout’s letter] to the CPAC agenda because when it’s on that agenda, the police will read it and they almost always pick up these concerns as areas where they will do extra patrols.”

Kelly added, “Generally the process for the last five years since we’ve had the radar signs, is when we receive a complaint like that, we deploy the radar signs, try and get a two-week data set, and we provide that to the police.”

The radar signs have recently been deployed to Church and Jones, not necessarily for tracking speed enforcement but in this case to gain valuable data on the levels and timing of traffic.

Councillor Fern Pridham asked Kelly about whether letters such as Swarthout’s provided helpful feedback on areas of the town that were experiencing traffic concerns, and he responded, “Absolutely.”

To that end, Councillor Luna asked Town Clerk Jenna McCartney to clarify the process for public involvement at the upcoming CPAC meeting, “Anyone is welcome to bring their concerns ahead of time, they can send in correspondence.” She also confirmed that the September 20th meeting is open to the public and can also be viewed on the Town’s YouTube page.

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