FOR THE GAZETTE
Prince Edward County Council signed an agreement with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Tuesday night to jump-start construction at the town hill intersection of Bridge Street, County Road 49 and Picton Main Street, which is designated a Connected Link highway.
Following discussions surrounding safety concerns, the province of Ontario announced the municipality’s successful grant application and issued a Transfer Payment Agreement May 17 for grant funding of $266,848.
The project costs were provided through the government’s Connecting Links grant, covering 90 per cent, with the expectation that the County would cover the remaining 10 per cent – just under $30,000.
The Connecting Links program in Ontario helps “municipalities repair designated municipal roadways and bridges that connect two ends of a provincial highway through a community or to a border crossing,” the report analysis stated.
The report claimed that between the time of the grant application and receiving approval, the draft Transportation Master Plan has studied the Picton Town Hill and recommends that two of the options evaluated receive further study, including full signalization and mid-block crossings, which are outside the scope of the Connecting Links program.
The project scope as outlined in the original grant application proposed the inclusion of two mid-block pedestrian crossing (PXOs) – one at Paul Street and the other at Bridge Street; advanced directional signage; enhanced pavement markings; relocating or restructuring two retaining walls to improve line of sight, and replacing curb depressions with a barrier curb and installing bollard with a safety chain to direct pedestrians away from the intersection.
Some minor suggested alterations to the project scope were noted by municipal staff.
Director of Development Services, Peter Moyer, said the suggestion is to approve the proposed pedestrian crossing at Bridge Street only, because a possible crossing at Paul Street is not technically a Connecting Link boundary.
“I don’t disagree that a crossing there would not be beneficial,” he said, adding it is on staff’s radar.
Director of Community Services, Programs and Initiatives, Todd Davis, said development services staff will determine what is appropriate for the future investigation of Paul Street to determine the best course of action.
In respect to the proposed bollard and chains, staff said in their report this may lead pedestrians to cross north to south at the top of the town hill instead, which is not any less dangerous than across the hill.
Coun. Janice Maynard noted concerns that come from not adhering to the yield sign at the top of the hill, asking how exactly the signage will be updated to enhance the flow of traffic.
Moyer said upon construction, the traffic island at the top of the hill may change, so signage will be relocated to an alternate spot if needed. To his understanding, he said, the goal would be to install larger signs that resemble the billboard-type signs that exist on highways.
If the traffic island remains, the idea would be to install large poles the signs would hang from halfway up the hill, as well as increased signage in the island.
Coun. Brad Nieman said the option to install signal lights at the hill rather than pedestrian crossings is “asking for trouble,” noting winter driving can be hard to navigate on the hill as it is.
Moyer said that recommendation would be the best for pedestrian safety and is a possibility.
He said in conversations with Brett Sears – of the Toronto-based consultancy firm WSP who provided the County’s draft Transportation Master Plan – it was identified to be the best solution.
“In off-peak season and inclement weather, what generally happens with slopes at signals is you implement a flashing yellow coming up the hill, operating similar to how it is now,” he explained.
Moyer also explained growing up in a small town with a steep slope on its Main Street, saying he can attest to the benefit of lights and signals.
“It does put it back into a situation similar to the way it works now, but this is an intersection that isn’t necessarily intuitive to someone who isn’t familiar with the intersection,” he added.
He noted in the off-season residents are more accustomed to maneuvering the town hill.
The intersection will be completely gutted, Moyer said, and staff will identify the best way to reconstruct it.
Moyer said next steps would be for staff to bring forward a Request for Proposal for initiating the study of the intersection