A “non-intrusive” roadway? Not so fast!

Responding to the December 11 front-page Whig article “King’s Town Squeeze” (check it out if you haven’t read it yet), Joseph Kotowicz wrote the following letter to the editor, published on December 18.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but all of the streets in downtown Kingston are residential streets, even the ones designated as arterial.

History has defined these streets.

Now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a true arterial street directly to and from downtown “with little” interference on residents in this area, namely the Wellington Street extension. Without this road, all streets in this area will be affected by increased traffic flow as developments proceed in the downtown core. With this road, much of the stop-and-go traffic will be alleviated. So which do you prefer?

A lot of Kingstonians live on these residential streets and should be concerned, but not this area’s councillor. Kingston only has one downtown and it must thrive.

And connecting this road to the non-residential arterial road, John Counter Boulevard, will create a non-intrusive roadway from and to the downtown. And eventually collect the traffic from a new causeway.

The original plan for the Wellington Street extension was and still is to co-exist with Doug Fluhrer Park, not go through it, as some say. The plan is even more imperative today and needs to be brought to fruition quickly.

The extension of the Cataraqui Trail to Doug Fluhrer Park is a great beginning.

Four responses take issue with Mr. Kotowicz’s view:

Letter writer Joseph Kotowicz refers to the original plan for the Wellington Street extension but fails to mention that plan is over 40 years old. Surely in this 21st century we can come up with a convenient, affordable public transportation plan that would relieve downtown congestion, thus reducing traffic on “residential” streets. Fewer cars in the downtown area is what we should be striving for, and upgrading public transit to reduce single occupancy is more feasible economically than building a road.

Should we not be looking for ways to preserve green spaces and the wildlife they harbour? Doug Fluhrer Park has well over 100 species, some of which are already threatened or endangered, living within its boundaries. City parks should not be created as “scenic drive thrus” but rather as areas to be leisurely enjoy both by residents and visitors. With the increasing number of condo developments in the downtown area, the need for more quiet, walkable, playable green space will be required. A three-metre-wide K&P Trail is already approved to cut through Doug Fluhrer Park. Let’s avoid running an arterial street through it as well and take the Wellington Street extension out of the transportation plan once and for all.

Audrey Helmstaedt, December 22

In his letter, Joseph Kotowicz seems determined that Kingston needs a “non-residential major arterial road” directly into downtown – his words.

There are many opposing views to be made, ranging from climate change and carbon reduction through sustainability to wildlife protection. However, a simple factual correction will do for now.

Kotowicz states “The original plan for the Wellington Street Extension was and still is to co-exist with Doug Fluhrer Park, not go through it, as some people say.”  True, the proposed Wellington Street extension would initially use the old railbed but, as the park narrows, it will encroach severely on the park at the narrowest point and leave only a thin sliver of green between road and water. This suggests going through the park.

Co-existence is, ideally, peaceful. However, Kotowicz’s “major arterial road” would cut off the park from the local area, severely limit access, prohibit the free running and games of children while routing traffic beside a downtown green space that is slender in the first place. Hardly peaceful co-existence.

Mike Cole-Hamilton, December 28

I’d like to respond to Joseph Kotowicz’s letter (“Street extension would help traffic flow,” Dec. 18). Many people already commute through Doug Fluhrer Park — on foot and by bike. One of the reasons that the park is attractive for these commuters is that there are no cars along this route. How rare!

Perhaps, for once, priority should be given to those who walk or cycle to work.

Anne Lougheed, December 30

Joseph Kotowicz suggests the need for the proposed Wellington Street extension to deal with increased traffic on his particular street, Montreal Street. There is a more sustainable and less expensive way. As Coun. Richard Allen from Countryside has pointed out, 70 per cent of the residents of South Frontenac work in Kingston. Most of these workers drive downtown in single-occupant vehicles. Kingston taxpayers are already heavily subsidizing parking for commuters. Now with the construction of the new parking facility near the K-Rock Centre, we are subsidizing even more — at least $65,000 per new parking space.

If a reliable transit system (express buses) were in place, people from Elginburg and Glenburnie could park outside the city core and use transit to travel downtown. Transit routes could also serve those using a new causeway. Then Mr. Kotowicz would not have to worry about increased traffic on his street. The Doug Fluhrer Park could remain the incredible wildlife park it is for all Kingston citizens to enjoy.

The Wellington extension is hugely expensive and unnecessary.

Elizabeth Durno, December 31

Thanks to those who have taken the time to speak up in public about the WSE. We will need more letter-writers and public intervenors in 2016 and we know many of you will come forward!

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Council and Colorado: KTMP Passes with Amendments

 

In response to requests for information about what happened with the Kingston Transportation Master Plan and other motions at Council last week, we hereby attempt to satisfy the public hunger for knowledge!

There were several items on council’s December 1 agenda of interest to WellingtonX. First up was a discussion of the terms of reference for the community visioning exercise and preliminary market analysis for the North King’s Town secondary plan. (This secondary plan is for the lands surrounding both the north and south sections of the WSE.) Only Mary Rita Holland and Rob Hutchison had anything to say about this, as their districts are most affected. Councillor Holland would like to see the strategic priorities realized, including the redevelopment of the Montreal St corridor as a series of hubs, rather than having it continue as just a thoroughfare. Councillor Hutchison expressed excitement about the future employment area and the improvements and amenities that may come with it.

It was the amendment proposed by Jeff McLaren, and the mayor’s amendment to that amendment, which generated most of the discussion on the secondary planning process:

That an additional public meeting be held to confirm the draft report’s compilation of the community visioning exercise after the draft is prepared but before it is officially received and such that the draft could be improved to best reflect the visioning exercise of the community; and

That #2 of the evaluation proposals “Experience and qualification of the project team” include but not be limited to include language indicating preference for a. expertise in community engagement, b. experience revitalizing old industrial zones, c. experience with integrated active transportation, d. expertise with great public spaces, e. expertise in environmental sustainability, f. experience with international city visions.

The first clause was supported by all, but the second was amended to indicate preference for certain expertise, there being concern among some councillors and members of staff that the original wording might make it difficult to find qualified applicants.

Later in the meeting the KTMP once again reared its ugly head, having been deferred from the last council meeting although with a long amendment. This time, Rob Hutchison proposed an additional amendment:

That, given the City of Kingston’s vision of being “Canada’s Most Sustainable City”, for the purposes of the next 2017-2018 KTMP That:

(1) Staff from the departments of Planning, Transportation, Engineering and Environment and Sustainable Initiatives utilize a fully co-ordinated and shared responsibility approach in developing the KTMP with the intention of fully informing the KTMP with the principles and conditions of the Official Plan, Sustainability Plan, Climate Action Plan and the City’s transportation needs;

(2) The RFP process begin with a consultation with recognized experts in, for example, transit and transportation full cost analysis, and transportation energy use and GHG emissions in the form of a public conference, smaller public meetings and expert-staff meetings so that a free exchange of cutting edge ideas and public engagement may create a peer review context and basis for the scope of the RFP to be issued for the next KTMP with the underlying principle of effective sustainability in a manner similar to what was utilized in Colorado;

(3) As part of the transportation and sustainability public conference process, a public visioning exercise on transportation alternatives and synergies be conducted to which the public and interested stakeholders will be invited.

As one can imagine, there was a lot of discussion about this amendment. Some councillors saw this as a good way to make sure that the consultants working on the next transportation master plan were armed with the desired background, and prioritized sustainability and community consultation right from the start. The mistakes in this KTMP could be avoided with everything spelled out. Council’s pledge of open government was mentioned more than once.

Others were concerned about added costs and time, possible inefficiency, and some “handcuffing” of staff. Was there some redundancy in the new amendment? And what the heck is going on in Colorado?

Eventually, after the Mayor separated the clauses, the first carried unanimously and the second and third carried 7-5 ( against – Allen, Boehme, Candon, Paterson, Turner; George absent).

In other business, the K&P Trail was also approved, which may have some implications for the WSE as the routes are partly overlapping; the proposal also reduces parkland in Doug Fluhrer Park by adding a second paved trail through it. Later, Councillors McLaren & Allen proposed to have staff provide information to the Kingston Environment Action Forum so that KEAF could research and report back on “the benefits and methodologies of how the City might create and utilize a ‘cost of carbon’ to monetize costs and guide program and project planning so that our future work is better aligned with our stated goals for carbon reduction.” This motion, which passed, ties in with the WSE decision in that the city’s eagerness to build new roads does not currently take ‘carbon costs’ into account; if it did, we might be pushed to look harder at alternatives.

The implications of all these decisions will be apparent in due course. The KTMP amendments, along with those incorporated into the motion last meeting, certainly will show for the record that Council was not very happy about either the report or the process by which it was devised. It will be up to the public, as usual, to continue to hold this and the next Council accountable for the motions passed.

— Anne Lougheed