Left-turn lanes should be added into the mix when the Region of Waterloo reconstructs the intersection of Arthur and Church streets, Woolwich councillors decided this week. They endorsed a plan that would add new lanes on both the east and west side of Church Street, corresponding to existing turning lanes on Arthur, when the work is carried out in 2020.
The realignment would eliminate the 11 existing parking spaces on the north and south sides of Church Street West.
It’s that change that was opposed by both the Elmira Business Improvement Area (BIA) and, specifically, by some of the merchants at the corner who depend on the on-street parking options.
“Parking is a really big deal,” said Dr. Jason McDonald, who operates Elmira Chiropractic at 15 Church St. W.
Addressing councillors at Tuesday night’s meeting, he called on them to choose a do-nothing option, arguing the intersection is functional as it stands.
“The intersection works – it’s not great, but it does,” he said, noting on-street parking is “essential” for his patients, many with mobility problems, to access his practice.
Like many of his neighbours, the building he’s in doesn’t have any off-street parking of its own.
While sympathetic, Coun. Patrick Merlihan, pointing to the two years of discussions and public consultations, said the region’s plans to reconstruct the intersection – and foot the bill – is too good to miss. It could be decades before the intersection is reconstructed again.
“This is an opportunity. It was a township ask in this case to improve the intersection for the residents,” said Merlihan, noting public input prompted Woolwich to request turning lanes that weren’t part of the region’s original plans. “The do-nothing approach is not an approach that works for residents.”
Furthermore, the Ward 1 councillor continued, growth will only make traffic worse, so sooner or later the work will have to be done.
As something of a compromise, Coun. Murray Martin suggested the township look at allowing on-street parking outside of prime commuter hours, say from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Unconvinced, however, Mayor Sandy Shantz suggested keeping the intersection as is, but adjusting the traffic signals to allow vehicles to advance in just one direction at a time rather than alternating east-west then north-south, a process known as split phasing.
Noting that the region opposed that plan, township engineering staff also balked at the idea due to the potential to make traffic worse, especially as growth continues.
“Split phasing would slow the whole intersection down,” said Ryan Tucker, a new engineering project supervisor.
“Regarding the alteration of the Church Street signals to provide an advance green without changing the layout of the intersection, the issue is that adding more time to one direction can only be done at the expense of the other direction (i.e. if the eastbound direction is advanced, westbound operations will suffer, and vice-versa),” Tucker noted in a written report. “In some cases where traffic volume is much higher in one direction than the other, this approach can be used successfully. However, at this intersection forecast traffic volume is the same in both the eastbound and westbound directions, so there is no clear choice about which direction to prioritize. The fact that queues will block streets/laneways on both sides of the intersection, further complicates the decision of which direction to prioritize.”