There is a collective sigh of relief in Elmira. After months of being closed for construction, Church Street East opened again last week to cheers from residents, businesses and commuters alike.
Getting around the closed section of Church Street East was something of a pain, as drivers had to navigate narrow roads and heavy traffic including 18-wheelers, gravel trucks, horse-drawn buggies, farm equipment, motorcycles and anything else on the road.
Businesses in the closed section of Church Street also had trouble as customers couldn’t access their storefronts easily.
Brendan Davidson owns Green Valley Health and Herbs, which faces Church Street. “Having the street closed has impacted sales but not to the extent we were expecting. We are lucky to have really dedicated customers that went through the hassle of getting to us the whole time the street was closed. We were also fortunate to have a back door. We had to build a wall to make sure no one would fall down the basement stairs, but it gave customers a way to access us while sidewalks were closed,” he said.
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Davidson says he plans to hold a sale on December 1 to “say thank you to everyone who took the time to find their way here the last five months.”
Residents on nearby streets such as Riverside Drive or Duke Street also had a tough time as more people used their road as a through-way.
Kathy Beisel lives on Duke Street and says her household was negatively impacted by the closure of Church Street East.
“Our lives were disrupted in a major way. The noise from the increased traffic was overwhelming at certain times of the day and the rest of the day and evening there was a steady stream of cars, trucks, motorcycles and farm implements. A lot of the trucks used their engine brakes and quite a few of the motorcycles and cars have very loud exhaust systems on their vehicles. Add to that the construction equipment. The noise was so loud, sometimes we couldn’t have a conversation outside. There was a lot of dirt collecting on our house and cars from the traffic on Duke Street. We have been residents of Elmira for 70 years and I haven’t felt so disrespected as citizens of this town.
“Now, they are telling us that next year they will be working on the other section of Church Street East and Duke Street will probably be done after that. How much do they think we can take? The truck route [bypass] should be put in first and we hope that council will push the region to start working on this immediately,” she said.
Nicholas Bauman lives on Riverside Drive, another road used by motorists to avoid the Church street construct and access Arthur Street.
“I have noticed a significant decrease in the level of traffic since the reopening. It’s been a nice change versus during construction,” he said.
The first stage of the reconstruction project was completed between the township and the region.
The township handled new sanitary, cellar drain and watermain replacement. The region reconstructed the full road, replaced the storm sewers, curb and sidewalk. New westbound and eastbound turn lanes were also added where Church Street intersects with Arthur Street.
The road is open, but there are still a few final details to be completed, says Boris Latkovic, the project manager for the region’s portion of the project.
“Work planned for this year has almost been completed. Minor boulevard work and cleanup activities remain but we expect this to be completed in late November or early December. The road was opened on November 9. Generally, the project is on schedule and will be completed within the planned timeframe,” he said.
Once these last details are complete, it will mark the end of the first phase of work on Church Street.
However, next summer more work is planned for the road.
“It is anticipated that the second phase of Church Street East from Duke Street to the Settlement Boundary will occur in 2023, pending council approvals. This is to be confirmed by the Region of Waterloo,” said Jared Puppe, the township’s director of infrastructure services. He added that the remaining work will not require a road closure.
The total tendered cost of the Church Street East project is approximately $2.6 million, said Latkovic. He said the township’s share is approximately 53 per cent.
Other upcoming nearby construction projects include the Duke Street reconstruction and Barnswallow Drive reconstruction, which will be led by the township.
The region will be leading Arthur Street reconstruction and Church street West reconstruction. Latkovic says at this time, Arthur Street from South Street to Kenning Place is scheduled for 2023-24 and Church Street West from Arthur Street to Weigel Avenue is scheduled for 2025. However, “the proposed timing of these two projects is likely to change to better align with upcoming regional and township projects in the area. We will have updates available on the proposed timing once the 2023 transportation capital program is approved by council.”