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Concerns about Glasgow Street bridge hinder efforts to remove unpopular left-turn median

There’s no quick solution for a made-in-Woolwich problem at the intersection of Glasgow Street and Millennium Drive in Waterloo, say township officials.

A median that prohibits left-hand turns onto Glasgow Street is inconvenient and a longstanding source of grievance for residents of Conestogo, the township acknowledges. Reducing traffic on the Glasgow Street bridge, an old single-lane span that underwent rehabilitation in 2010, takes precedence, says director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

He argues that a solution for the bridge, already subject to height and weight restrictions, must be found before the intersection at the other end of Glasgow Street can be addressed.

“There’s a load limit on the bridge. Something has to be done about that,” he told councillors meeting March 24.

The township continues to receive complaints about the Waterloo-side intersection, as the prohibition against left-hand turns forces traffic to make a long detour before doubling back to make a right-hand turn. Conversely, some drivers just ignore the sign and drive over the concrete median.

The restrictions are a hardship for those who live along that stretch of Glasgow Street, said James Frey, who operates a dairy farm. Milk trucks, other deliveries vehicles and farm machinery can’t use the bridge so are forced to access Glasgow Street from Millennium Drive. Many have to make the left turn over the awkward median.

“I think something should be done,” he stressed.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan said he has received several emails from residents wanting the median removed. Kiwanis Transit, for example, finds the intersection burdensome and would like it removed. Barring that, it would like an exemption for its busses, making the turn legal.

“The median there is not a solution. It’s not working,” said Merlihan.

Ward 3 Coun. Larry Shantz was of the same opinion, suggesting the intersection be fixed and a solution arranged at the bridge, perhaps closing it to motorized vehicles.

Kennaley said closing the bridge is an option. Previously, the township was under the assumption that a closure would require either the construction of a new bridge or the widening of Northfield Drive, regional road, in order to accommodate the displaced traffic. Both measures would be prohibitively expensive. Now, it appears Northfield has sufficient capacity, opening up the township’s options.

The first step to finding a solution, he said, is an environmental assessment process. The median was installed by Waterloo, paid for by developers of a nearby subdivision. They won’t just remove it with justification, he said.

“We don’t want to remove it until we’ve done the environmental assessment and have a solution.”

Manager of engineering Richard Sigurdson said the township has looked at a number of options for reducing traffic on the steel truss bridge, which is already carrying far more traffic than was intended when it was built in 1886. The goal is to limit traffic to one vehicle at a time.

Measures examined have included traffic lights, gated access controls, one-way traffic and a host of others. Each provides issues with expense and logistics, he said.

Looking to speed up the process, council voted to spend $20,000 on an environmental assessment, moving it up to this year from the 2016 timeline proposed by staff.

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