Andrea Jolly

Andrea Jolly

Trail construction running smoothly but complaints make for bumpy ride

Impatient drivers and public complaints have been the real problem, according to the lead engineer of the Victoria Street Corridor project.

Road closures and outdated electrical have pitted downtown Trail construction but impatient drivers and public complaints have been the real potholes, according to the lead engineer of the Victoria Street Corridor project.

The $1.6 million infrastructure improvement between Tamarac Avenue and the Victoria Street Bridge is well into Phase 1 with perimeter work – sidewalks, curbs and gutters — moving along.

Paving that was scheduled for this week will extend into October, according to city engineering technician John Howes.

He said while the job is on track, running only about two weeks behind schedule, public feedback would suggest anything but.

“There has been repeated frustration by people, from those who don’t do their own research or just don’t plan ahead to people who are just frustrated with any sort of changing,” he said during the Trail Times site tour.

“We certainly didn’t expect this level of intensity for this duration.”

Traffic is flowing steady now that construction up the highway to Warfield has stopped, Howes said, adding it was tough for flaggers to manage  “waves of traffic” flowing into one lane.

But the city is now fielding complaints from residents who are concerned that the new “pedestrian bulbs,” bumped out sidewalks, have done away with right turning lanes on side streets like Cedar Avenue.

This traffic calming measure is used to extend the sidewalk and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.

But the curb extension has narrowed the roadway, which means drivers now have to wait in a single lane before making a right turn onto Victoria Street and continuing onto the bridge into East Trail.

“There has never been a dedicated turning lane there, people just never parked that close to the corner so there was a way to sneak in there and take a right turn,” explained Howes, referring to Cedar Avenue. “There are so many non-conforming issues in this downtown area that people just assumed that was designed like that.”

The only official turning lane the city is removing is the left turn into the arena just before the bridge, which needs to be done to lengthen the turning cue onto Bay Avenue.

It has been 25 years since major improvements along this stretch have rolled out. That said the city has approached this extensive project with a patient hand, knowing that there may be some surprises along the way.

Such has been the case at Glover Road, where a temporary closure on the lower part of the street from Green Avenue to Victoria Street has been prolonged since a water line replacement (which services both sides of lower Glover Road) proved to be tricky given former design drawings were as old as the abandoned infrastructure found on site.

The existing water line was three metres off from what the map suggested, which meant the connection didn’t coordinate with the city’s new design.

“The existing water line was further out than anticipated so it shifted all the infrastructure out into the middle of the road so we had to close down the intersection,” explained Howes. “It hasn’t delayed anything; it has been the hottest topic of discussion because it has caused the largest inconvenience to people in West Trail.”

What has really been time consuming is the electrical upgrades, mostly street lights, which once uncovered the city felt further work was necessary.

“We thought we could just redo things, put in a conduit for future work and what have you but the fact that the lighting system is synchronized with the lighting signals, we had to relocate boxes,” said Howes. “While we had it all dug up, we thought we might as well make the improvements and this is the time, rather than waiting another 10 years until something else fails.”

Once Nelson’s Maglio Installations wraps up Phase 1 of the project, which includes curb/gutter and sidewalk removal and replacement, utility improvements and pedestrian-crossing enhancements, Hil-Tech Contracting Limited out of Rivervale will take on the next chapter of the city’s vision with the creation of archways along Bay, Pine and Cedar avenues.

The city views this project as a means of further promoting its downtown core with an attractive gateway that could entice visitors but also slow traffic with its calming elements.