Town hiring a consultant to take ‘holistic look’ at Riddell Road

January 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Council has directed Town staff to hire a consultant to provide a thorough review and analysis over the potential impacts installing advanced greens at two intersections along Riddell Road will have on traffic flow in the area. 

Following much discussion amongst Council on Monday, it was determined the approximate $30,000 cost was a necessary evil as the municipality’s elected officials continue to react to a petition signed by more than 700 local residents expressing concerns over the “dangerous, unsafe intersection” at Riddell Road and Spencer Avenue/Centennial Road.

At the last Orangeville Council meeting of 2019, held on Dec. 16, neighbours Dana Crane, Melanie Chapman and Debbie Van Wyck lambasted Council over what they perceive to be a lack of action on the part of the municipality to improve driving conditions and promote road safety in the Settler’s Creek subdivision. They asked the Town to install advanced greens at both the Spencer/Centennial and Alder Street intersections along Riddell Road, while requesting other traffic calming measures be adopted in an attempt to slow down vehicles travelling along Spencer Avenue. 

Following a lengthy debate at that meeting, Council directed Doug Jones, the Town’s General Manager of Infrastructure Services, to put together a report highlighting the costs associated with implementing left turn signals at Riddell Road and Alder Street, and Riddell Road and Spencer Avenue in both directions. 

In his report to Council on Monday, Mr. Jones provided estimated costs for two potential options – first, for advanced green left turns, and secondly for fully protected left turns. The difference between the two is significant – an advanced green would simply see an arrow added to the existing traffic lights, allowing turning traffic to proceed then as well as when the light is green. A protected left turn would see another set of lights installed, where drivers will only be able to proceed on the arrow, and will be stopped when the lights turn green for oncoming traffic. (Such an arrangement is already in place on Highway 9 at Mono Mills and Highway 10 at Inglewood.)

The cost for modifying the existing lights at both Alder St. and Spencer Ave. along Riddell Rd. to an advanced green would be around $66,000, Mr. Jones notes in his report. To go with fully protected left turns at both intersections would set the Town back approximately $82,000. Mr. Jones noted those costs are for signal modification alone. Any necessary changes to roadway, pavement marking and signage would bring the total costs up. 

While providing those estimates to Council, Mr. Jones was keen to point out that neither he, nor anybody within the Town’s infrastructure services department, could be considered traffic, or road design experts. Describing himself more of a generalist, Mr. Jones reiterated it was staff’s recommendation that a consultant be hired to carry out a comprehensive review of Riddell Road.

Coun. Grant Peters wasn’t keen on spending the approximately $30,000 on a consultant that, he opined, will only tell Council, and staff, what it already knows. A traffic study commissioned by the County of Dufferin in 2018 found there was no justification, as per the Ontario Traffic Manual, for installing advanced greens at any point along Riddell Road (although they exist at both ends of the street). Coun. Peters believes any consultant hired by the Town would likely come to the same conclusion. 

The difference, Mr. Jones notes in his report, is that the delegation that presented to Council back in December are requesting advanced greens due to safety concerns along Riddell Road, rather than for issues relating to traffic. There have been several severe collisions at the intersection of Riddell and Spencer in recent years, including one in 2017 where a 67-year-old Orangeville resident lost his life. 

Initially, Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh and Coun. Debbie Sherwood were hesitant to sign off on hiring a consultant. Mr. Macintosh wondered why this issue wasn’t a part of an ongoing town-wide traffic safety action plan that is currently being developed, while Ms. Sherwood worried about how the Town would pay for the consultant. 

“Where is the money coming from for this? Our Council has been very, very strong that they don’t want (to incur) debt, they don’t want to borrow from reserves, so where is this coming from?” Coun. Sherwood asked. “This has to be a budgeted item. It’s not that I’m against this, but if we’re approving (this spend) tonight, then here we are in January and it’s already started, we’re getting requests to spend money and come up with funds for projects we haven’t budgeted for.”

Coun. Sherwood said she would like to see this project held off for a year and included in the 2021 budget. While he didn’t suggest pushing the project off, Coun. Joe Andrews also expressed his concern over how the Town planned to pay for this project.

After listening to his fellow councillors debate the issue, Coun. Todd Taylor, who himself lives on Spencer Avenue and has spoken favourably about carrying out work at the two intersections in question in the past, offered his thoughts on the situation.

“My social commentary on this whole thing is, while I remain grateful that the citizens of Orangeville have elected me to sit in this chair, and for the most part I’m enjoying this role, sitting here tonight, this is just so frustrating,” he said. “Democracy is a wonderful thing, and I certainly support it, but I’m not aligned with this. I think we’re wasting our time. We have people who have come to us. It’s wrong to push this. We should be approving this tonight and getting this done.” 

With Council approving the hiring of a consultant, Mr. Jones expects it will take approximately two months for the Town to bring someone in to complete the work. Once a consultant is on board, a report could take anywhere between two and three months to complete. 

“We’ll probably be back talking about this again, with more information, in the summer,” Mr. Jones told Council. 

While the consultant will predominantly be looking into the two intersections in question, Mr. Jones noted they would also take a “holistic look” at Riddell Road in general, looking at all intersections and determining what impacts any changes would make to the flow of traffic along the entirety of the road. At the request of Mayor Sandy Brown, the consultant would also look into the viability of reconstructing Riddell Road to including roundabouts at key intersections. 

It was also agreed that, while money to pay the consultant would be drawn from general capital reserves this year, the project would, in essence, be included in the 2021 budget, meaning any money taken from reserves will be returned next year. Coun. Grant Peters was the sole vote against the motion.

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