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Getting drivers to slow down a slow process in Woolwich Township

Traffic issues, particularly speeding, are a frequent source of public complaints received by Woolwich officials. Often more perception than reality, the topic is nonetheless in turn a familiar refrain for councillors seeking answers from staff.

A “do something” mentality surrounds calls for traffic-calming measures, which have been looked at systematically since the township first adopted an official process in 2015. This year, for instance, engineering staff looked at traffic issues reported on four roads:  Woolwich Street South (Woolwich Street North – Schiefele Place), Benjamin Road (Burning Bush Road – Cheltonwood Crescent), St. Charles Street East (Notre Dame Avenue – Pine Creek Road), and Whippoorwill Drive (Green Warbler Crescent – Grey Owl Drive).

Woolwich has a process, first adopted in 2015, that does appear to react slowly following public complaints about safety on a given road. Starting with an examination of the street to see if it warrants a study, the township then moves to traffic monitoring: speed information, traffic counts and accident data collection. If a problem is eventually identified, there’s then a two-stage response available.

Stage one involves lane narrowing, painted lines, “slow down” signs, the use of the township’s radar speed trailer, and targeted police enforcement. Stage two would see the use of speed humps, raised crosswalks or extended curbs to narrow the roadway.

“Currently, there are no traffic calming requests that require stage two measures to be implemented. Staff would like to implement an additional stage one measure on Woolwich Street, Oriole Parkway and St. Charles Street East in the spring of 2020,” the engineering department’s Ian Vaughan said in a report presented to council Tuesday night.

Director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe noted the preference is to move slowly, making a change and then testing to see if it’s been effective rather than moving right to stage two measures. Implementing hard infrastructure changes can be costly, he said, adding that staff is open to finding solutions.

“I would suggest nothing’s off the table, from our perspective,” he said.

As an example of councillors received complaints, Ward 3’s Larry Shantz pointed to ongoing concerns from residents on Golf Course Road in Conestogo.

He noted that the traffic-monitoring data shows there were some 192 incidents where cars were travelling at or above 60 km/h in the 50 zone, asking what the township can do to slow down drivers.

Vaughan countered that the figures show most of the traffic is within a reasonable range, with some outliers.

Measures such as lowering speed limits don’t always work, as people will drive at their “comfort level,” said Puppe, with Shantz suggesting the likes of speed humps or collapsible bollards.

“We have to do something – there’s a lot of activity going on there,” said Shantz.

Puppe said the township has been monitoring the effectiveness of measures undertaken there, and will continue to do so.

Coun. Scott McMillan noted that roads are often designed for speeds in excess of the posted rate, prompting people to drive at that higher speed. He suggested steps be taken to make the comfortable speed a slower one, pointing to the likes of lane narrowing and curb bump-outs.

The township uses what it calls the three ‘E’s when discussing traffic-calming measures: engineering, education and enforcement. But councillors appeared to take issue with the effectiveness of that approach, particularly the education component.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan stressed the need to do a better job of the education part. He suggested putting a clear link to information on the township’s website that would let residents see the traffic-calming reports and provide them with information, along with a link to registering complaints with the municipality. That, he said, could make people more aware of what’s being done.

For 2020, the township has identified seven locations that require traffic monitoring, having met the criteria for stage-one traffic calming measures:

  • Benjamin Road (Burning Bush Road – Cheltonwood Crescent)
  • Woolwich Street South (Elroy Road – Menno Street)
  • Whippoorwill Drive (Green Warbler Crescent – Grey Owl Drive)
  • Oriole Parkway West (Mockingbird Drive – Flamingo Drive)
  • Crowsfoot Road (Sawmill Road – 430 metres East of Sawmill Road)
  • Woolwich Street South (Woolwich Street North – Scheifele Place)
  • St. Charles Street East (Notre Dame Avenue – Pine Creek Road)
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