City proposes two-way road conversion

“That’s not true. That’s not true.”

Dave Prang sat shaking his head at Ward Three Councillor Greg Martin. Despite the blustery cold weather outside, the atmosphere was heated in the Civic Centre auditorium. On December 10, approximately 50 Brantford residents, city staff, and City Councillors gathered to hear the results of an almost year-long study into whether or not Colborne and Dalhousie Streets should be converted for two-way traffic.

For most of the evening, Prang had been silent. After Robert McLaughlin, Project Manager of AMEC Philips, the Burlington engineering firm who conducted the study, finished his presentation, several residents expressed their disapproval of the proposal. Many saw the study as an unnecessary cost, especially as renovations on the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre were recently announced to be over-budget. Others mentioned the costs of expropriating the South Side of Colborne Street. Several saw the information as biased and incomplete. They labelled the proposed conversion as unnecessary, saying it will only slow down traffic and make travelling through downtown more difficult.

But Prang, who attended the meeting as the Chair of the Brantford Business Improvement Area, saw the proposal as positive and approached the microphone to say so publically. The BIA, he said, represents 200 different retail businesses and services. According to Prang, most are in favour of two-way conversion.

But Prang was in the minority that night. “Events like this do not draw supporters,” he told the crowd.

Councillor Martin fired back, telling the crowd that representatives from Laurier Brantford told him they were in favour of the conversion – but only because the BIA had told them to be. Prang disagreed. He told the Sputnik that converting the streets to accommodate two-way traffic could only improve businesses, and benefits to businesses would result in benefits for Laurier.

The meeting marked the completion of the third phase of the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment for the conversion. According to the presentation, converting Colborne and Dalhousie Streets to accommodate two-way traffic will comply with the City of Brantford’s Transportation Master Plan and the Downtown Master Plan and continue the revitalization of downtown. The presenters also said it will cause infrastructure improvements to sewage systems and road surfaces that are in poor condition. According to the presentation, these changes will cost $200 000.

Many of those in attendance called the presentation biased. Mike Bodnar of Hardy Road said it neglected city walk-ability concerns. Others were critical of the absence of bicycle paths, or the consideration of roundabouts as methods of controlling traffic. They also criticized the presentation’s time sample. AMEC Philips surveyed downtown traffic between 3 and 6pm. Some residents said that ignored traffic flow from changing work shifts. Several residents noted that not many people, besides university and college students and employees, travel downtown.

“Let me know how many stores [there are] downtown…that draw someone other than students downtown,” said Jeff Young. Young has lived in West Brant for 53 years and opposes conversion.

George Cornwell, who used to work in the City’s Works department, said he didn’t find the presentation gave the benefits of two-way conversion. Cornwell said he was “disappointed that facts [in the presentation] had nothing to do with two-way streets.”

The public has until Jan. 6 to present any comments on the presentation. The presentation can be accessed online here. Users need to enter “BFD-2way” as their username and “options” as their password.

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