Community Newspaper Columns

Road projects making streets safer for everyone

September 2015

Various road projects in Old Ottawa South are making a positive difference in calming speeds and enhancing the overall streetscape. One of these projects was recently completed, and two others will be underway in September.

Sunnyside Ave.
Last year's major redesign of Sunnyside Ave. between Bronson Ave. and Bank St. created more and larger bulb-outs, narrowed some of the travel lanes and introduced a "chicane" — curves in the roadway created by parking and bulb-outs on alternating sides. These changes are having the desired effect of reducing vehicle speeds, which has been a serious issue as indicated by community consultations, and by multiple accidents over the past decade that provided tragic proof of the need.

A unique element of the street redesign was the introduction of "rain gardens," stormwater retention areas within some of the bulb-outs. The City will closely monitor these features to see how well the plants grow and whether they can survive the challenging climate and roadside environment. Of course, we also want to see how well the rain gardens function as green infrastructure to slow the rate at which stormwater flows into City sewers. If this pilot project proves successful, it could lead to a wider rollout of soft landscaping as an attractive approach to handling rainwater. In a time of accelerating climate change, such tools will be of enormous value to the city.

Bronson Ave.
Some important changes are coming to Bronson Ave. just south of the bridge over the Rideau Canal. The alterations, approved several years ago and fine-tuned over the past eight months, will transform the way traffic exits and enters Bronson to and from Colonel By Dr. This is a daunting area, especially for walking and cycling, so residents should welcome changes to make it calmer and safer for all road and sidewalk users.

New designs will slow vehicles where various users cross paths, and better signage and road markings will be introduced. The biggest change, however, will be the addition of a traffic light and pedestrian/cycling crossing. When all is done, we should see most if not all cyclists using the bike lanes, rather than the sidewalks, and lower vehicle speeds will reduce noise and spray.

As with many major road projects, the work will require a temporary closure and detour for about two weeks in September or October. All Bronson northbound traffic that currently exits to the east to get to Colonel By will be detoured via Sunnyside and Seneca Aves. I know this will cause concern among some residents — I am one of them, because I cycle through the Sunnyside/Seneca intersection while commuting to City Hall. I'm aware of the challenges of the four-way stops at Seneca and Sunnyside, and of the importance of Woodbine Place as a walking route to Hopewell School.

Safety is a top priority, so I am working with City staff to ensure that the closure is as brief as possible (requiring some evening and weekend work) and with the police to ensure heightened enforcement of speed limits and stop signs. On weekdays during the closure, I expect to have full-time crossing guards at Sunnyside and Seneca and possibly Aylmer as well. I will communicate the exact dates and other details via my newsletter and a flyer to nearby residents.

Ossington calming
Speaking of safety, the upcoming road and underground pipe replacement on Ossington Ave. between Bank St. and Grosvenor Ave. provides an opportunity to introduce traffic calming measures. Local studies show that this particular block suffers from higher traffic speeds than most others in the area, a problem the road renewal can alleviate by modestly narrowing the roadway and widening the sidewalks.

In addition, the block will get two speed humps. The design now commonly used greatly reduces noise and vibration compared to older, steeper speed "bumps," so the impact to nearby residents should be entirely positive.

Inevitably, whenever speed humps are installed on one street, residents on other streets ask: "Why are there no speed humps on my block?" The answer is two-fold: Firstly, studies show that speeding is often a perceived problem rather than a real one on most blocks. Secondly, ad-hoc construction of speed humps, as opposed to incorporating them into a broader road renewal project, is very expensive.

I work with City staff to focus limited traffic safety money where the need is proven and where we can address problems as efficiently as possible. But I am always open to looking at how we can best calm traffic on any street.