Finally, the new traffic lights in Virgil are up and running.
The signals at the corner of Niagara Stone and Field roads started operating on Tuesday, June 11, after a protracted installation.
Martin Mazza, a former councillor and owner of Italian Pizza and Subs across near the intersection, had a front row seat and said he has been watching the construction unfold in front of his restaraunt for about three months.
He expressed frustratation over how much time it took to set up the lights and how much “waste” he saw with the project, he said.
It felt like Groundhog Day seeing what appeared to be the same work being done repeatedly, said Mazza, adding it took the Region of Niagara 96 days to complete the project.
“They would rip out the concrete, the curbs, pour them – couple of weeks later, they rip them up again because it wasn’t right,” he said. “Four times they ripped those curbs out. Four times.”
Mazza also questioned why the region didn’t install the lights before the retail development on Niagara Stone Road was built, which includes a full-size LCBO store and a Tim Hortons location.
Carolyn Ryall, the region’s director of transportation services, said a series of steps needed to be followed during the construction period.
“There is a sequencing of events that transpire during any construction,” she said in a phone interview. “The region made every attempt to make the area safe and accessible for all users.”
“There was co-ordination with utilties as well as a partnership with the developer that had us working together on a sequence of how the work rolled out,” said Ryall. Because the developer didn’t warrant an intersection, the region didn’t start the constuction before the plaza was built, she said.
After analyzing the need and consulting with residents and the community, the project was given the green light.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said the new signals will allow seniors, who need to go into the plaza, to cross the intersection safely.
“We’ll have to see what it does with respect to congestion of the cars but there’s going to be some construction in 2022 that will, hopefully, allow easier movement of the traffic,” she said.
Mazza agreed the lights are needed, especially for seniors who live nearby at Pleasant Manor retirement home and had to use the safety island to cross the street. Once the island was removed, it became harder for people to do it.
“I was scared for them. They were scared. They wouldn’t walk as much. They were afraid because they couldn’t cross this road safely,” he told The Lake Report.
Niagara Region spent $250,000 on the installation. That covered grade work below and above the ground including proper signing, road markings, curbs, sidewalks and asphalt repair in the area around the road.
Depending on the task and the sequence of work, between two and five crew members worked on-site, said Ryall.
“This intersection is being put into place based on a lot of the feedback we’ve received from the community on the need for it,” she told The Lake Report.
NOTL regional councillor Gary Zalepa Jr. said, “Sometimes there are things that are not foeseen during construction projects. I think that’s the case here. I wish people would ask for the facts first before they get too excited about what’s going on.”