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Friday, September 30, 2022
Residents want traffic routed around St. Davids

But regional councillor says that's not happening anytime soon

This is one in a series of stories on a regional proposal to build a roundabout at the main intersection in St. Davids.

Some residents of St. Davids want traffic rerouted around the village centre instead of having a roundabout installed, but Regional Coun. Gary Zalepa says that is unlikely and “impractical.”

“Routing traffic off Regional roads onto local ones makes no sense and does not confirm with any best practices” Zalepa told The Lake Report in an email.

The Region of Niagara's plan to build a roundabout at the intersection of Four Mile Creek and York Roads doesn't sit well with Dorothy Walker, a local historian and founder of the Friends of St. Davids.  

“We come from England and usually they’ll put a roundabout in an area that bypasses a village so it keeps the village unique,” she said in an interview.

Walker, who wrote “A Village in the Shadows: A History of St. Davids,” worries the character of the historical village will be irrevocably altered by turning its most famous intersection and centre of town, known as the “Four Corners,” into a roundabout.

She said it isn’t just colonial history that is preserved in the intersection. The intersection was where two Indigenous trails met before Europeans even arrived.

Paul Harber, proprietor of Ravine Estate Winery, agrees.

“It’s the heart of (St. Davids). What’s incredible is York Road and Four Mile Creek Road were already in existence before the settlers came here. Those are two major First Nation trading routes. And we’re just throwing that out,” Harber said.

“When it’s gone it can’t ever come back,” he said.

Harber and Walker said the best solution would be for the region to focus on routing traffic around the village centre.

But Zalepa said there is a possible alternate path somewhere down the line. Harber and Walker both suggested traffic be rerouted to Concession 6 Road, a municipal road.

Zalepa said he has been advocating for Concession 6 to be uploaded as a regional road and it was a great example of a long-term strategy for dealing with traffic in the area.

But the road is not up to regional standards and such a move is not happening anytime soon, he said.

“There would be some steps necessary. Including The Town would have to begin the process if council was willing to bring the road up to adequate standard,” he said.

He also said he would only support the change if the Mewburn Rd. connection into Niagara Falls was included.

Zalepa said such considerations would be part of discussions for a transportation master plan between the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the region.

“I think an alternative road in and around the town would be important for the future,” Zalepa said during an interview at the end of October.

Concession 6 Road, an alternate route from NOTL to Niagara Falls, was only reopened to traffic about two years ago after being closed for about a decade until repairs were made to the Mewburn Bridge.

“The key to transportation changes and road changes is to make sure you're not making a bad decision or a knee-jerk decision. It requires the staff to compile a list of all the accidents and what the reasons were,” Zalepa said.

Zalepa said all transportation decisions come from recommendations by outside consultants who are experts in the field and it is important for councillors to wait for their reports before making any major changes to an area.

He said the region favours the roundabout solution in St. Davids because it comes from the recommendation of experts.

But residents like Harber and Walker want a more balanced solution that maintains the character of the village.

“I don't see how a roundabout negatively impacts that village atmosphere,” Zalepa said.

Dorothy Walker’s husband, Greg, a former aeronautical engineer with the Royal Air Force and founding member of the Friends of St. Davids, is strongly in favour of the roundabout.

He listed a myriad of reasons, such as costing less to maintain over time, being more aesthetically pleasing than a traffic light, proven as a safer traffic solution and reducing congestion and noise pollution in the area.

But Greg Walker said his support hangs on two stipulations.

The first is that businesses be considered in the design and do not have customer access impeded by the roundabout.

The second is the roundabout be designed with the safety of pedestrians as one of its main objectives.

Walker, who has a visual impairment, said he is concerned for his own and other people’s safety crossing the roundabout. He wants the region to consider the installation of flashing lights for a  pedestrian crosswalk.

“Please, please, please put those in because we’ve got children here and we’ve got people like me trying to cross that intersection,” he said in an interview.

“If it’s properly designed with safety in mind for pedestrians, I think it is perfectly, perfectly safe.”

He disagreed with the argument that the character of the intersection would be irreparably changed, saying that fundamentally, it will still be an intersection of the two historic roads.

“I think it will enhance the intersection,” he said.

But one thing stands, some people are worried St. Davids will not be St. Davids if the change happens.

“It’s gonna be sad. I mean, who's going to remember St. Davids?” Dorothy Walker asked.

NEXT: Another small Niagara town's experience with roundabouts.