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BLOG(John Lindsay): Second Avenue Reconstruction -- An Opportunity not to be Missed

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

An Opportunity not to be Missed:  

If you had the opportunity to save lives, prevent injury, protect the environment and make your community a better more attractive place to live while saving taxpayer dollars at the same time would you take this opportunity?  This is the question a number of individuals and groups are asking the Sudbury city roads and transportation staff as they have turned down the option of a modern one lane roundabout for planned Second Avenue reconstruction instead, deciding on a five lane roadway and large signaled intersection.  Groups that have spoken out against this project include the former Sustainable Mobility Panel, the Minnow Lake and Ramsey Lake Stewardship Groups, the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance and also a number of individuals. 

The project which was to have taken place last year was put on hold by the Ministry of the Environment because the city had not prepared a proper plan called a “Project File”.  This file has since been prepared but contains, according to opponents of the city plan, a number of serious discrepancies.  These are detailed in a report to be sent to the city and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Chance which may make up the basis for requests for further study and consideration to the Ministry.

The Project File for Second Avenue Infrastructure Improvements identifies the “problem” on Second Avenue as “existing and future traffic congestion” and suggests road widening and a signalized intersection as the preferred alternative.  In actuality, based on observation by ordinary citizens and our Mayor and Councillor, that regardless of traffic volume, there is very little congestion and traffic flows relatively smoothly regardless of time of day, especially compared to other arteries in the area.  While there is identified need for intersection improvements at Scarlet Drive there has been, according to the Project file “only one collision at this unsignalized intersection in the past three years”. 

There has been a long standing need for road and other related infrastructure improvements for this artery.  However, in our opinion the preferred solution as suggested by the proponent does not answer or satisfy the various environmental factors that needed to be considered including water and air, safety, noise, cultural, social and aesthetic. The proponent appears to have negated these considerations in favour of a traditional “road widening” and signal controlled intersection solution rather than a recognized modern alternative that would more satisfy the environmental issues.

What is done today will have long term implications for many tomorrows.  It is important that we as a city do what is best and what is right for all concerned including present and future residents, and for the city as a whole. We hope you will agree that more consideration is required to arrive at a truly satisfactory alternative for Second Avenue Infrastructure Improvements.

Water: The proponent acknowledges that “the project will create triple the amount of storm water runoff entering the drainage system in the Lake Ramsey Watershed due to increased surface area of the road way” yet “the proponent has not incorporated any storm water devices into the planning process to address increased pollutant loads discharged into Ramsey Lake” the source of drinking water for 60,000 Sudbury residents.  The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honorable Glen Murray has stated that “Few things are as important to our health and well-being as having safe water to drink - It will take a continued community effort to ensure protection of our drinking water”.  In responding to this request we suggest, as the proponent has not suggested any protection measures, that the surface roadway area be reduced by utilizing fewer lanes thereby limiting the amount of stormwater runoff through the construction of a modern one lane roundabout for the Scarlet Drive Intersection.   

Air:  The proponent states that  “traffic volumes forecast for the year 2031 Preferred Alternative are expected to remain close to existing 2011 traffic volumes and would not be expected to result in a significant increase in vehicle emissions and any impact of additional traffic will be mitigated by the widening of the road to reduce traffic congestion, and reduce emissions". The proponent did indicate, at one of the public information sessions, that the roadway would be 12 feet closer to the residential area.  It is therefore expected that as the prevailing winds blow towards the dwelling units the residents would be more exposed to emissions.

Also the proponent did not take into consideration the added emissions to be created by the nearby proposed signaled intersection. Any signaled intersection results in traffic backup of varying durations, and increased emissions.  There is substantial evidence of this effect.  One report states “when vehicles are idle in a queue they emit about 7 times as much carbon monoxide.”  Overall the increase of harmful emissions can be 30 to 40 times more than a modern roundabout, a preferred solution to congestion at signaled intersections. The proponent did admit in the Project File that for a roundabout “lower vehicle delays translate to reduced green house gas emissions”.  

Safety:   For the proposed Second Avenue/Scarlet intersection, the traffic signal time required to allow for pedestrians to cross the 7 lanes (North side), based on similar sized intersections in the city, and allowing for consideration of the over representation of seniors and children in the area would be approximately 30 seconds (1.2 metres per second) allowing as well time for left turning vehicles during which time traffic flow is stopped and vehicles continue to contribute emissions when idling and even more as they start to move again.

The incidence of accidents in roundabouts is significantly lower than in signalized intersections. According to the proponent as stated in the Project File document “The design characteristics at a roundabout encourage pedestrian safety and visibility" and "pedestrian collision rates at roundabouts are over 50 percent less than at signalized intersections" and "statistics show a 48% reduction in overall collisions and a 78% percent  reduction in personal injury or fatal collisions"

Social and Other Factors:  Second Avenue is recognized as not a particularly attractive area of the city.  Reconstruction of a secondary artery with three times the road area and a large signaled intersection is not likely to improve the appearance and contribute to a feeling of community.  There is a recognized concern with respect to increased vehicle speeds, regardless of signage and an increase in noise levels from the expanded roadway and signaled intersection. A roundabout means fewer access lanes, less need for road widening resulting in less noise and a roundabout can be aesthetically pleasing with increased opportunity for gateway treatments and landscaping”.

Roundabout Consideration:  With respect to a roundabout as an alternative the proponent indicates that due to the two lane current design approaches for the Scarlet intersection, a roundabout would require a two lane configuration and therefore be too large to be accommodated in the space available.  However, one of the significant advantages of a roundabout, according to the Canadian Institute of Traffic Engineers is that “fewer approach lanes are needed to achieve the equivalent traffic capacity and “roundabouts almost always result in lower vehicle delays and shorter queues than signalized intersections”. Therefore, it is suggested that as storage capacity is not a factor and a roundabout can handle 20 plus percent more traffic than a signaled intersection and a one lane roundabout can statistically function at < 2,000 vehicles per hour and <20,000 per day that a roundabout for this location be considered with single lane approaches, similar to most other established one lane roundabouts. As a model the one lane roundabout suggested for the Silver Hills and Bancroft Drive intersection at 36 metres outside diameter, according to R.V. Anderson Associates (Subury), would not require significant more space than a signalized intersection at this location.  See attached diagram in which the Silver Hills/Bancoft roundabout intersection design has been applied over the proposed Second/Scarlet intersection design approximating relative measurements.

As described by Transport Canada (www.tc.gc.ca) “Roundabouts are a new type of intersection that are becoming very popular in Canada, and all over the world because they offer so many benefits.  At a roundabout, vehicles simply slow down and go around an “island” in a counterclock wise way, instead of stopping and waiting. There are never any left hand turns in front of oncoming traffic in a roundabout – and that means far less serious accidents. Also because drivers don’t have to stop in a roundabout, there’s far less traffic noise.”  Additional benefits not mentioned but significant are less congestion as traffic is likely to be more constant in flow resulting in fuel savings for motorists and as less road width is required construction and maintenance costs are lower.

Possible negative feelings and public concerns with respect to roundabouts have been shown to turn positive following installation.  To quote the Mayor of Bracebridge, Graydon Smith, where a one lane roundabout was installed two years ago “we made the right decision..are quite enthusiastic..some apprehension at first but now great acceptance and approval by residents and visitors..nothing but pleased..pedestrians really like it..as it was a one lane roundabout had little doubt it would be a problem - should have done it earlier..now considering other locations perhaps even downtown where roundabouts could be even smaller”

“Further information in this regard and access to all related information is available on the website www.minnowlake.ca

 


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