By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Following blowback from a group of residents on Somerville Street, the City of Oshawa is once again sending out a survey to gauge interest on removing a set of controversial traffic calming islands.
Starting in June, residents of Somerville Street approached council about the possibility of ripping out the raised islands that dot their street, noting that the islands were not only restricting the entryways into the nearby driveways, but they were also repeatedly the cause for collisions with snowplows during the winter months, and causing damage to nearby boulevards as large vehicles are forced to make wide turns to maneuver around them.
Things appeared to be shifting in the residents favour in September when the results of a survey were presented to council noting that of 142 surveys sent out, 79 per cent of respondents were in favour of removing the islands. However, residents were shocked when staff the staff recommendation came forward to leave the street as is, noting there was “insufficient community support.”
The main issue was that despite the majority of survey respondents voting in favour of the removal, the city’s policy guide notes that 60 per cent of those who were given surveys needed to respond in order for the city to recommend action. In this case, despite the strong number of people in favour of the removal, only 63 of the 142 surveys sent out were completed, a response rate of 44 per cent.
The report caused several residents to cry foul over the city’s process, noting that many people either tossed the survey in the trash, thinking it to be a flyer, or didn’t receive one at all.
For that reason, council have approved a second survey to be sent out to reevaluate the community’s stance on the islands, which include four pairs of raised medians that sit north and south of the intersections of Jones Avenue, Glenwood Avenue, Switzer Drive and Sunset Drive. The city estimates the cost to remove the islands at approximately $21,000.
Several alternative options for traffic calming on the street have already been presented if the islands are to be removed, including the installation of four radar message boards along the street, targeted police enforcement on a regular basis or pavement markings at the intersections where the calming islands currently exist.
“Should city council support the above recommendations or any other traffic calming measures, it should follow the Class EA process, including public consultation, the city report reads.
Councillor Rick Kerr is hoping that perhaps the city can take things a step further and drop the speed limit on the street from the current 50 km/h to 40 km/h, especially with the construction in the area pushing cars onto the side streets more often. The speed limit change was something brought forward in a separate motion, and includes the installation of a four-way stop at the intersection of Somerville Street and Sunset Drive.
“I like the fact that the islands are coming out, I like the fact that we’re going to make an effort after Simcoe Street has been closed to enforce and to get motorists to reduce their speed,” he says.