As Parks Canada is replacing the Warsaw Swing Bridge on Parkhill Road East in Peterborough, Ont., citizens have started an online petition calling for traffic calming measures on affected routes.
On Monday, the City of Peterborough released a document highlighting some of the options it said it considered prior to closing Old Norwood Road, Maniece Avenue and MacFarlane Avenue for the duration of the bridgework on Parkhill Road, which is also closed to through traffic for eight months.
“One of our main concerns was Parkhill Road carries about 10,000 cars a day based on recent counts we did before the bridge closure,” city transportation manager Kevin Jones said.
“Because Old Norwood and Maniece are the closest alternatives, we knew a lot of people would deviate to those routes regardless of our detours.”
Jones told Global News Peterborough the roads are basically rural roads that need to be upgraded and the city felt couldn’t accommodate the volumes of traffic.
“There’s some risks to allowing those roads to take on the traffic,” Jones added. “The decision was based on protecting the infrastructure and the safety of the infrastructure and operating conditions such that we wouldn’t be creating new problems that would then have difficult choices.”
Traffic is now detoured around the closure to the south along Lansdowne Street and to the north by Trent University along Nassau Mills Road.
“We’ve made a tough decision but feel overall, it was the right decision,” Jones said. “We recognize there’s some out-of-way travel. It’s about 10 minutes to run the detour route during peak times. We felt that was an acceptable impact given some of the impacts we’ve envisioned.”
The city said it considered adding police officers to direct traffic at the intersections of the roads and Television Road during peak periods but said the cost would be about $250,000 to $300,000 for each of the roadways.
It also says it also considered upping enforcement of speeding and reckless driving on the roads, installing temporary traffic signals (at a cost of about $150,000 for each intersection), lowering speed limits in school zones permanently along MacFarlane at Armour Heights Public School, designating the streets as one-ways and opening some of or all the streets that are closed to through traffic.
However, Jones said that would increase traffic flows on the single-lane bridge on MacFarlane and the single-lane Lift Lock tunnel along Hunter Streat East.
The most complex option considered was installing a temporary bridge next to the swing bridge that’s being replaced.
The city says that option has been reviewed by Parks Canada.
But Jones said it would’ve likely lead to the city needing to buy property to install plus it would’ve taken a long period of time to install the temporary crossing.
“To do a temporary bridge you’d have to put it offline, either north or south of the existing bridge,” he said. “There’s a bunch of issues. You know it sounds easy, but it’s not as easy as it may appear.”
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, an online petition, created on Nov. 5 by concerned residents, has 920 signatures.
It’s calling on the city to reopen MacFarlane, Maniece and Old Norwood and install traffic calming measures, and seeks increased traffic calming measures in the area of Armour Heights Public School.
Those traffic calming options could include speed bumps, temporary time closure, reduced speed limits, enforcement and the installation of the bollards used downtown to increase patio space during the summer.
Andrew MacGregor, an East City resident and co-author of the petition, told Global News Peterborough due to the pandemic and state of emergency, it’s been difficult to get responses to concerns as well as getting time at city council to present the petition or bring up the closures.
“There’s a bit of a breakdown in democratic process,” MacGregor said. “We’re hoping the magnitude of signatures will speak to the necessity to revisit this decision.”
MacGregor says the petition will remain open until the residents can get a special delegation on the council agenda but feels due to timing, it won’t likely happen until early next year.
“We can resolve it pretty darn quick if we reopen the roads and make sure we can use the roads safely,” he said.
“The frustration used to be that we couldn’t access those roads, but now it’s very much the response from the city. Some neighbours aren’t getting a response at all — not from elected officials.”
MacGregor also suggested that traffic lights will be eventually needed anyways along Television Road at Old Norwood and Maniece and that it could be done now rather than closing the roads.
As of Tuesday morning, Peterborough police have issued 102 tickets, 14 written warnings and 600 verbal warnings to motorists driving along the closed routes.
The fine is $110.
“If there’s going to be a concerted effort by police to enforce the closure, they can enforce existing traffic laws, such as speeding and reckless driving along those streets,” MacGregor said.
Peterborough County council was upset it wasn’t told about the road closures until it was too late and said they wanted to speak to the city about it.
Jones confirms a meeting has taken place and that dialogue was positive.
“We shared our perspectives on the closures and our rationale for why we recommended the closures,” he said. “One takeaway is that we could’ve done a better job to reach out to them in-advance to let them know what was happening.”