It is commonly said that everybody who lives on the east side of the river wants a bridge and its associated connectors, namely the Wellington Street Extension. Not so. Carl Holmberg, former Reeve of Pittsburgh Township and lifelong advocate of his area of town, had this to say in a letter to the Whig from June 18, 2014 (slightly edited for length):
I will state categorically: Kingston and provincial taxpayers cannot afford a bridge of “convenience”; it is not needed but rather wanted (in part because no other more affordable traffic-calming options have been put on the table for citizens to consider).
Obviously, proceeding with a $200 + million project must be based upon a very real need and with assurances the solution will solve the problem. This is where the rationale falls apart. A new bridge will not solve the traffic problems in Kingston East. I travel the corridor between the downtown area and Gore Road on Hwy 15 several times most every day at various times, ranging from 7 pm and 6 pm and have done so for many years and do feel somewhat qualified to comment.
During the so-called rush hours (7 – 8:30 am), the primary area of congestion is from the Royal Military College main entrance to the top of Fort Henry Hill and then worsens at the junction of Count Road 2 on Hwy 15 to Gore Road. Once traffic reaches this junction going north, most of it quickly disperses either into the subdivisions along 15 or towards Hwy 401. Traffic in the morning coming south on 15 begins to back up at the same junction. It is this junction (Gore Road at Hwy 15) where the new crossing is proposed.
Quite simply then, can someone explain to me how will a bridge being erected at the end (for afternoon rush hour) or the beginning (for morning rush hour) of the corridor of primary congestion ease the traffic within the corridor itself? All of the same traffic tie-ups will continue in the mornings and afternoons because CFB/RMC will continue to travel the same routes. Nothing will change without introducing other remedies that are quite doable. Yes, of course they will involve some costs, but the city itself would be able to handle them (without a handout from our over-extended provincial credit card).
One piece of the traffic solution is an idea I spoke with CFB about 15 or so years ago as the then reeve of Pittsburgh Township. This was at a time when the base began to seriously expand after threats of closure, and I have no doubt that a record of this is likely still hiding in a file where on CFB.
The thought was to create a new exit/entrance on the northeast end of the base, to give CFB workers the option to avoid Hwy 15 in its entirety. In other words, instead of having just one north-south artery, there would be two.
There is already an undeveloped road past the Garrison Golf and Curling Club and a gated entrance/exit to Gore Road at this location. Along with Gore Road, this road can be improved and the road opened to traffic. Several new access roads could then also enable traffic to move in and out of Greenwood and Grenadier subdivisions (which are already composed mostly of military families). Gore Road could be extended to join Butternut Creek Road, enabling quick access to Hwy 401 at Middle Road.
Having two separated north/south arteries (Hwy 15 and Gore Road) between the base and the 401 would greatly assist in managing traffic congestion on Hwy 15. This alternative would also open up lands for additional residential/commercial development, calming the increasing demands along Hwy 15, which is going to get even busier in future years.
The above suggestion, when presented to the base, was warmly entertained and presumably shelved because of a lack of political follow-up over the years following amalgamation. It may be timely for our representatives/staff to reopen this conversation.
In addition to the above, Hwy 15 can and should be widened to four lanes (similar to Gardiner’s Road, outer Princess Street and Bath Road) from County Road 2 at least as far as the St. Lawrence Business Park in the short term, and eventually to the 401. This would significantly contribute to current tie-up relief as well as prepare for the added congestion as the corridor develops over the coming years.
A final suggestion to help ease congestion would be to build a northbound merge lane onto Hwy 15 at the Matheson Gate for traffic exiting the base. Just one car tripping the traffic lights to turn right on Hwy 15 creates additional unnecessary backups along Hwy 15 to the County Road 2 junction. The current road design does not allow a car to miss the road plate to avoid a signal trip. I would encourage city hierarchy to visit and personally witness this fact.
We are all aware that over taxation at every level is seriously over-burdening taxpayers. Ontario’s net debt has placed our financial situation on par with that of Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain and California. We are picking our money tree clean, the well is drying up, and yet we have the nerve to stand in line, hat in hand and ask for help from an already maxed-out provincial credit card for a project that cannot be defined as a real need.