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WALSH – Now is the time for a serious talk about our one-way traffic network

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

AS YOU MAY BE NOW AWARE, I am actively advocating to have a serious discussion on the possibility of converting some of our one-way streets to two-way usage, in the process of developing our future Downtown Plan, that will provide our direction and vision for the next 20-30 years.
Municipalities all over North America are reviewing long-term one-way street networks in favour of two-way streets in prime downtown retail areas. I give you my unsolicited opinions and suggestions below as some light reading, to go with your weekend ribs.

Coun. Denis Walsh.

I am specifically suggesting a conversion of Seymour Street between First and Sixth Avenues, a possible longer view reconfiguration of Third Avenue and maybe Lansdowne Street between First and Sixth Avenues, if it is determined as being beneficial to our Downtown.

I strongly feel that First Avenue should remain as a one-way arterial street. Moving high volumes of traffic efficiently around the west border of our Downtown core, running from Lansdowne Street south to Columbia Street helps keep traffic away from the DT core and minimize congestion. I am advocating we direct all pass-thru arterial traffic to the periphery or around the borders defining the Downtown core.
I am certainly not a qualified traffic engineer, however over the years I have had numerous challenging conversations on how best to address our Downtown vibrancy and current one-way transportation network. Myself and others find some of our Downtown one-way streets to be restrictive, problematic and out-dated.
With over 40 years since converting from two-way to one-way streets, it is time we questioned if they are our highest and best use, in today’s new world. Below, are some suggestions based on strong opinions, heated debates and bold opinions flavoured with some common sense.
1- Reconfiguring Seymour Street between First and Sixth Avenues to two-way traffic is critical, not only the future growth of our DT business core, but this is also the key to a more pedestrian friendly and vibrant Downtown. If the new Community Arts development, located at Fourth Avenue and Seymour St. becomes a reality, we need to consider much higher pedestrian traffic on Seymour Street along with safety concerns, new traffic patterns and greater connectivity.
2- The current enabling and encouragement of pass-thru vehicle traffic, using Third Avenue as an arterial road to get to North Shore, results in higher speeds and congestion in our DT core and splits our Downtown retail district in half, this current situation needs to be reviewed by traffic engineers. A suggestion is simply to make Third Avenue a two-way or boldly consider doing a major reconfiguration, such as a reversal of one-way, to help funnel traffic volumes coming out of Lorne Street, Riverside/Pioneer Park traffic along with high volume of vehicle traffic coming out of large Sandman Centre events, all at the same time. There have been many, many changes and development since the current one-way network was configured some 40 years ago. Moving traffic up to Columbia Street more efficiently would help in dispersing traffic quickly, out of our congested City core. An added bonus of two-way conversion of Third Avenue or a reverse one-way would help move much higher volumes of traffic now heading to Sahali/Aberdeen, including providing easier access to our major regional health centre RIH, for emergency vehicles and non-frequent visitors.
3- A conversion of Lansdowne Street to two-way is questionable. With much higher volumes of traffic expected in the future, it would be a good idea to at least consider developing a ring road type alternative around our Downtown retail core, to help funnel expected future higher volumes of traffic going thru Downtown to NS or just wanting to pass through our Downtown core to other destinations. If higher traffic is expected, as we grow, then it may be more efficient to leave Lansdowne as a one-way arterial as our DT north border arterial street, to move high volumes of traffic west.
4- It is important to leave First Avenue as is. Designated as a one-way arterial roadway, starting from Lansdowne Street to help funnel vehicles coming from West Seymour (NS), Lorne Street (Red Bridge) and Riverside/ Pioneer Parks or Sandman Centre events. First Avenue is critical as a bypass of Downtown core, to move higher volumes of traffic travelling to other destinations, efficiently around the western edge our Downtown core.
5- Using Sixth Avenue as the arterial pass-thru in place of Third Avenue would complete a proper ring road around the borders of our Downtown business/residential/entertainment core, rather than having high traffic arterial one-way streets severing portions of our Downtown and restricting walkability. With improving Sixth Avenue connectivity with Lansdowne Street …to First Avenue …to Columbia Street, we would have a natural ring road channeling traffic around our Downtown core, rather than cutting through it. There would be an ability to easily enter and exit our Downtown core, whether it be for business, residents, or cultural and entertainment reasons. One-way streets would no longer confine growth of retail businesses or interfere with the vibrancy, walkability and natural growth of our Downtown core.
We need “bold leadership” to look ahead at the future growth of our Downtown retail core, higher densification and predictable higher volumes of traffic. With the long-term planning for Downtown core and neighbourhoods currently taking place with the Downtown Planning Advisory Committee (DTAC), along with the first draft of the Downtown Transportation Choices (DTC) strategy discussion next week, I believe now is the critical time to have a serious conversation regarding the future of our current one-way transportation network, in the heart of our City.
Denis Walsh is a Kamloops City councillor.
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About Mel Rothenburger (6996 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on WALSH – Now is the time for a serious talk about our one-way traffic network

  1. Back in the days when they knew how to properly build cities, during Romans times, they had one-way streets. The three biggest problems I see is excessive speeds, heavy haul trucks through our downtown and all them two and four wheels motor vehicles making, by choice, excessive noise. For two of those three maladies we just need more and consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations. The third one requires some federal government money to build a bridge at the airport and to build a nice four lanes road through Domtar land connecting to the Trans-Canada highway near the west-bound weight scale. When built, all heavy truck traffic through the downtown and the North Shore must use that route except for permit-required special events. Then, with some colourful paint and some well-chosen, well-planted and well-maintained trees we will have the downtown we all have been waiting for…since Roman times.

  2. Tony Brumell // August 11, 2019 at 1:17 PM // Reply

    I think I believe that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.On the other hand a thorough review after forty years (and I remember the way it was before one way and how confused some rush hours were) is a good idea. It has worked well to move high volums of traffic from south to north and back.. This has been a boon to the north side for a long time and to change it now might benefit the main D/T core but hurt the north side.It seems to me that two way traffic is more dangerous than one way,Especially during the transition period.
    Review ??? Yes but lets not predetermine the answer .We might even try a short term pilot period to give imperical data re the changes.

  3. Councillor Walsh…your rational appears thorough and well thought out,however, what is the problem?
    Please advise what specifically is the problem with the current road system? Please provide empirical data or evidence to show the current road layout is not suitable and is causing traffic fatalities, accidents, increased vehicle vs pedestrian accidents, loss of business revenue to the downtown merchants.
    What are the other cities you referring to?
    One must first determine what specifically the problem is before determining an solution.

    Cooper

  4. Norm Westbrook // August 11, 2019 at 9:05 AM // Reply

    Bold leadership? I can understand the diversion of traffic away from the downtown core, and it looks just dandy on a two-dimensional map. First Avenue, however, goes Uphill At A Steep Grade. Denis, you may not be a traffic engineer, but I know you will understand the environmental implications of increasing traffic on First twenty fold or more, not to mention the massive increase in cost to the city (read: taxpayers) for maintenance of the road surface. These are only two of many concerns that I and many others have, I look forward to the lively debates ahead.

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