What a difference a decade makes…

Mayoral candidate Scott Foster has drawn our attention to the Transportation Master Plan Final Report from 2004. This report gives some interesting and important historical depth to our current situation… and also reminds of how much has changed since. With regard to roads in the downtown, the report takes the position that to meet North-South capacity deficiency for car traffic, one of the following is necessary:

1) Wellington Street extension (Bay to Railway); 2) Rideau Street two lane widening (Bay to Railway); 3) Montreal Street two lane widening; [or] 4) Division Street two lane widening (Queen to Railway).

If these are the only options, one can see why the WSE rises to the top of the list: after all, it doesn’t require that private homes be demolished! But the need for such drastic solutions has not in fact been demonstrated. It does not seem that demand has grown as much as estimated, and furthermore, we seem no closer to a third crossing now than we were then. And should demand increase, there are other options to be studied, including improved public transit, one-way street possibilities, or opening up more E/W streets such as Harvey to allow traffic filtering through several streets rather than being channeled through one. But back in 2004, the report didn’t worry about more research, because it simply didn’t think of the area as significant or occupied:

The alternatives [widening one of the existing streets or building the WSE] were considered to be largely equal with respect to the cost and transportation service (Wellington was considered to be slightly cheaper). Differences among the options with respect to natural environment were identified to not be overly significant due to an absence of significant natural areas that could be affected by the road improvements…. As the Wellington Street extension would largely pass through an area of vacant industrial land, social impacts are predicted to be minimal. Similarly, for the Economic criteria group, the Wellington Street alternative is favoured as it will not affect existing businesses and will support new development in the lands to the east of Rideau Street. For these reasons, the Wellington Street extension was identified as preferred overall and is the recommended alternative.

Today, it is hard to argue that Doug Fluhrer Park is not a “significant natural area” in the light of Sustainable Kingston and the Parks and Recreation Plan… this is a rare downtown waterfront park, and while it may not be pristine wilderness, it is wildlife habitat. Furthermore, the claim that “social impacts are predicted to be minimal” is clearly not true given neighbourhood concern for the park, for the Bailey Broom Factory, and the growing sense that this area is not wasteland or “vacant” but rather a social, cultural, and economic resource for the city.

— Laura Murray

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