The $4-million-plus roundabout that has been proposed for the Four Corners intersection of York Road and Four Mile Creek Road in St. Davids is not wanted by the residents of St. Davids and it is not needed.
Last November, the regional director of transportation services for Niagara told the NOTL town council that the proposal is effectively a “done deal” because the region has already jumped through all the necessary regulatory hoops and that there is nothing the town can do about it and, therefore, no need for further discussion.
Despite this, last November NOTL councillors voted unanimously for a resolution to express their disapproval of the proposal after listening to a presentation by regional representatives. Coun. Clare Cameron was quoted as saying that the council was expressing “what we’re hearing from our community.”
On the other hand, Coun. Gary Zalepa, who was elected to Niagara regional council to represent the residents of NOTL, seems to feel that he knows better and the residents who are opposed to the proposal are simply misinformed. He is reported to have made up his mind that “a roundabout is the best thing for the main intersection in St. Davids.”
What is wrong with this picture? How can the Region of Niagara be permitted to proceed with a proposal that is not wanted by the residents of St. Davids and is opposed by the town council?
This is an example of regional transportation planning bureaucrats run amok, ignoring the interests of local residents, using questionable studies and “lap-dog” experts to impose their so-called solution to a problem that their own approach to transportation planning is creating in the first place.
The logic is as follows:
*The regional transportation plan calls for traffic to increase on York and Four Mile Creek regional roads over the next 10 years;
*The Four Corners intersection in St. Davids, while not really a traffic problem today, will become one within the 10-year planning horizon;
*Therefore, the intersection must be upgraded to accommodate the increased traffic and a roundabout is the best way to upgrade, consistent with regional transportation planning policies to favour roundabouts over traffic lights.
This is not a plan for the residents of St. Davids. This is a plan for people who don’t live in St. Davids but who may occasionally drive through it and suffer the terrible inconvenience of being slightly delayed by a four-way stop.
It is disingenuous of Maged Elmadhoon, Niagara Region's transportation manager, to assert that “understanding the character of St. Davids has been a core aspect of the project” and that it could “add to the character of the village by putting something in the centre of the roundabout.”
At the same time, Mr. Elmadhoon states that both York and Four Mile Creek roads are regional roads and that “the intent of these roads is to move traffic” and that “there isn’t any study that says we need to move the traffic away.”
And that is precisely the problem! The terms of reference for the municipal class environmental assessment regarding the intersection were ridiculously narrow, extending only a few feet in each direction from the intersection. The scope of the study made no effort to consider the impact of increased traffic on the local community.
The study makes no mention of the elementary school just down the block nor the large residential community on the other side of the intersection from which young children walk to school. The assessment should have considered whether the anticipated increase in traffic would be detrimental to the community and what could be done to preserve and enhance the character of the village.
The Village of St. Davids, with its haphazard mix of industrial and residential zoning, has already suffered from years of questionable planning but there are many ways the character of the village could be maintained and enhanced … beginning with routing increasing traffic and heavy trucks away from the village core.
Sidewalks and parking areas could be added or improved, and bike lanes incorporated. The character of the village would be greatly enhanced by creating an environment for people to walk around, for example, with shops and restaurants for them to visit. None of this was even remotely considered in the region’s current approach.
The current, proposed plan should be scrapped. The estimated $4-million price tag (which doesn’t include the cost of expropriating private land necessary to complete the work) should be spent, instead on figuring out the best way to move regional traffic without having it go through the middle of St. Davids, and to initiatives that would actually enhance the village character rather than destroy it.
Regarding regional transportation planning, a good place to start would be to look into placing a roundabout at the intersection of York Road with Concession 6, scene of many recent actual, as opposed to hypothetical, crashes, and upgrading Concession Road 6 south of York Road to at least the same standard as Mewburn Road.
Local elections are coming up in October of this year and, as we have all heard, “All politics is Local.” The matter of the St. Davids roundabout promises to be a live issue in the election.