By Doug Hallett
After the weighing of public and business feedback, city hall staff are recommending that St. George’s Square be turned into a central space surrounded by a one-way road. But city staff say the proposed one-way road isn’t the same as a roundabout or a traffic circle.
“The creation of a roundabout is not what the design concept illustrates,” says a new staff report.
“Rather, the goal is to ensure the creation of a strongly unified square where vehicles move at slow speeds, similar to Carden Street through Market Square,” says the report, which goes to council’s planning, building, engineering and environment committee on Aug. 5. “Furthermore, the concept envisions the opportunity for some on-street parking and transit stops within the square, which will contribute to the flexible nature of the space. What results is the creation of central space ringed by a one-way road,” says the report.
A reduced road width and low vehicle speeds around a central square would make people comfortable crossing, the report says. There would also be two or three signalized pedestrian crossings into the square, it says. As well, “these signalized crossings will give transit vehicles priority and will also actively manage signal timing to optimize traffic flow.”
The one-way road around the square would allow traffic flow on Douglas Street to be reversed, making it easier to get into the heart of the downtown, it says.
A new design scheme for downtown streets that’s also being recommended proposes a “flexible street model” for Wyndham Street north of Carden Street and for Macdonell, Quebec and Douglas streets. These streets would be transformed along the lines of Carden Street between Wilson and Wyndham streets. “In contrast to traditional streets – which use a conventional raised curb and gutter – flexible streets place all users and elements of the street at the same level, allowing for unrestricted movement between roadway and boulevard zones,” it says.
A recommended speed limit of 30 km/h on these key streets would promote traffic flow, pedestrian safety and more flexible space in front of businesses for retail display areas or patios, the report says. “Carden Street in front of city hall is an example of a flexible street,” it notes.
The proposed new streetscape manual also establishes standards for bicycle parking, and the flexible street approach being recommended should make it safer to cycle downtown, the report says. Providing shared-lane markings, known as sharrows, and lowering speeds on these streets are seen as improving safety for cyclists.
It would cost an extra $1.7 million to rebuild St. George’s Square in the form that’s being recommended, with “finishes” like those found on Carden Street, the report says. That is on top of $5 million to reconstruct the square along existing lines. It would also cost more to redesign “key” downtown streets to the standard found on Carden. However, all this can probably be done while staying within the city’s existing capital budget plan to spend $18.5 million over 10 years on downtown infrastructure renewal and streetscaping, it says.
Proposed redevelopment of the Baker Street Parking Lot can’t happen until reconstruction of Wyndham, Quebec and Baker streets has been completed, it says. Such reconstruction would include replacement of aging infrastructure. The new downtown streetscape manual being proposed by staff also includes changes to road width and parking along Wyndham Street.
Parking would stay as is on one side of Wyndham, but diagonal parking would be introduced on the other side, increasing the number of on-street parking spaces from 50 to 76 spaces, the report says. This would also allow for expanded patio spaces and display areas for businesses on both sides of the street.
The number of traffic lanes on Wyndham would be reduced from four lanes to two lanes, but two lanes can handle the traffic on this street well into the future, it says.
By Doug Hallett