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Transportation Master Plan further described to council

Amherstburg town crest

While the issues of the possible Murray St. closure, the now-defeated “slow zone” and Simcoe St./Meloche Road dominated much of the debate at the most recent Amherstburg town council meeting, there were other parts of the transportation master plan that received discussion.

The plan, approved in principle by town council, and the process to develop it was the topic of a presentation by John Grieve and Amar Lad from the consulting firm TYLin. Grieve noted eight different town policies were reviewed as part of the plan.

The study began at a “kick-off” meeting Oct. 27, 2022, involved two online surveys and two open houses since then.

Five main themes were identified during the process with those being safety and infrastructure improvements, speed limit and road management, transit and transportation, community engagement and infrastructure preferences and navigation. Specific issues, in addition to the major items that were focused on that night, included improving County Road 5 condition for safety, improve transit services with regular trips to Windsor and within Amherstburg, connect bike lanes for cyclist and pedestrian safety, enhancing bike parking, consider one-way streets and angle parking in the downtown area, reducing speed limits, evaluating congestion and parking, more information meetings with residents, public education campaigns and addressing differing opinions on roundabouts and traffic control measures.

Three “big moves” were identified. The proposed “slow zone,” which did not receive support from town council was one as were curb “bump outs” in the downtown core and a reallocation of parking spaces to “enhance the downtown walking experience.”

“The actual procedure is still being finalized and is expected to come back through administration at a future date,” Grieve said of traffic calming measures.

An active transportation plan to ensure there are sidewalks for people to utilize and to prioritize sidewalks along “key destinations” such as near schools and transit stops.

Grieve said the consultants worked with the town’s planning department to understand where growth is expected. Future traffic operations by 2028 could include a traffic signal at Sandwich St. S. and Fort St. and removal of the crosswalk near the former General Amherst High School, optimized signal timing at Sandwich St. S. and Richmond St. and the road closure recommended on Murray St. between Dalhousie St. and Ramsay St. By 2033, traffic operations could include a traffic signal at Meloche Road and Simcoe St. instead of the all-way stop that is going in as a “temporary” measure as well as optimized timing at Sandwich St. S. and Alma St. and Sandwich St. S. and Simcoe St.

By 2040, Sandwich St. S. and North St. could see an east leg extension and signal implementation, traffic signals at Meloche Road and Alma St., a dedicated westbound turn lane at Sandwich St. S. and Alma St. and traffic signals at Alma St. and Tofflemire St./Fryer St. as well as more optimized signal timing at two intersections with traffic lights.

Additional transit improvements could include more stops, such as at William St. and Sandwich St. North, a route to the Via Rail station in Windsor, and long-term goals being for a transit service operated by the town itself and a transit hub established near Bill Wigle Park.

The cost, should everything be implemented, would be over $13.6 million over the long term (ten-plus years) with short-term costs (one to five years) being over $5.7 million. Medium-term, over five to ten years, would be just shy of $7 million with $900,000 in long-term costs.

“We wanted to note there are costs that have already been considered and contemplated in the town’s long range capital forecast,” said Grieve. “Beyond that, there are many funding opportunities available particularly through the Green Municipal Fund that the town could look at accessing to pay for a large portion of these elements.”

Grieve said the focus on the downtown core in the study was because it had the most pedestrian and cycling activity with “relatively high” vehicular activity there also. He said the study area could expand in the future.

Councillor Diane Pouget wanted to know if police were consulted on the speed limit issue, with Lad stating they did not get any specific comments back on it. She believed public open houses were not well attended, though Lad disagreed and believed they were, adding many didn’t sign sign-in sheets at the meetings. Surveys were also “quite substantial,” he said.

Pouget said 13 and 17 people were reported at the sessions, with surveys including people from other municipalities. Lad stated there were more people that came in and looked at the information boards and provided comment sheets. He added surveys are anonymous but believed it is unlikely there were repeat respondents based on his review of the responses.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb said he was fascinated by such topics as increasing mobility having a better impact on health and the link between income and transportation. Grieve said where mobility options are increased, there is greater access to all residents and their potential to access jobs and services.

Gibb also noted a rise in Transit Windsor usage numbers, stating he was shocked by the increase. Lad said that data is the “gross number of boardings” on that route.

“The ridership is a great show of success,” added Grieve.

Councillor Peter Courtney said he liked traffic calming measures and said he would have liked to see measures further down Simcoe St. to Victoria St. because of schools in the area. Courtney said he was “very perplexed and shocked” as he wanted more information about other areas of Amherstburg.

“I was hoping for a little more of a broad-based kind of thing rather than the downtown core, which seems to be the flavour of choice,” he said.

Lad said the study was to be on the town with a focus on the downtown core. He said it is a “guiding framework” and meant to be broadly adopted throughout the town.

Courtney said he was hoping for more one-way streets in Amherstburg to allow for more parking. He said he was looking for other ideas that didn’t come to be, adding he had concerns over 26 parking spots recommended for deletion with no apparent plan to replace them.

Lad said the parking removals are paired with improved striping on other streets, with that balancing out the loss. Some areas that have parking spots removed have narrow sidewalks that need to be widened for accessibility reasons, including near Toddy Jones Park.

Regarding a note of “an abundance of downtown parking” within a ten-minute walk, Councillor Linden Crain wondered about that line in the report and wondered if that information was based off other data or other municipalities. Grieve said their review prompted that recommendation and discussion with staff.

“It was observational. We did not do a formal utilization study,” said Grieve. Transportation Master Plan further described to council

By Ron Giofu

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