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Two-way downtown traffic could be coming

Development committee okays plans to investigate conversion of Albert, Celina streets

The city is taking a hard look at embracing two-way traffic in the downtown core.

At its latest meeting, Oshawa’s development services committee supported looking at six major streets in terms of traffic flow.

As part of the 2020 budget deliberations, staff will investigate the conversion of Celina Street and Albert Street to two-way traffic.

Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson, who moved the motion, noted when these streets became one-ways, there was a different mentality at the time.

“If they were built today, there wouldn’t even be a discussion on making them one-way streets,” Giberson said.

Giberson notes one-way streets usually lend themselves to vehicles moving faster, and there are safety concerns.

“There are parents on those streets who don’t feel safe with their children out there,” he said.

The plan is to have a consultant report come to council before budget talks.

However, Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey wondered if staff could complete the report.

But commissioner of development services Warren Munro noted the city’s engineering department is currently ravaged with vacancies. “I think it would be a challenge to do it in-house,” he admitted.

Visiting Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson agreed the change should happen but warned it’s not the first time this conversation has come up.

“In 2014, staff was given direction to do it, and five years later, we are no further down the road than when the motion passed,” Nicholson said.

The discussion then turned to the conversion of Simcoe, Bond, King, and Centre streets as well.

Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr noted he’s heard from downtown business owners that two-way traffic on these streets would help them.

However, he has his doubts.

“I’m not 100 per cent convinced of that. There’s always been a lack of potential solutions, so it’s prudent we at least refer this to staff to come back with a report,” he says.

However, Nicholson noted a full study on the matter almost a decade ago happened a decade ago.

He said he was in favour of it back then until the cost became clear, calling it “insane.”

“God knows if it was $8 or $9 million in 2009/2010, what it will be in 2019 or 2020.”

Nicholson believes it will have a hugely negative impact on downtown businesses and traffic flow.

“I think to even enter this particular discussion is going to create greater fear and consternation in the community,” he said.

However, Giberson argued the potential cost shouldn’t be a reason to “be terrified” of studying the potential change.

He again stated that one-way streets lead to faster speeds and dangerous driving.

Pointing to the stretch of King Street between Stevenson Road and Park Road, Giberson said it is bascially a four-lane highway in a residential/business setting.

“Why are there four lanes there when they are going to hit two lanes in the downtown,” he asked.

Giberson said other communities such as Ajax and Whitby have moved towards smaller, two-way streets in their downtowns, and the “sky hasn’t fallen.”

“It should be a place that is safe for all modes of transportation. The goal of a downtown is not to move traffic as quickly as possible,” he added.

Ward 3 city and regional councillor Bob Chapman said with the issue already looked at in the past decade, it would be easier for staff to update the 2010 report.

Munro conceded updating the most recent report would “streamline the process.”

However, he said council and staff have many things to consider, including whether Durham Region would be a funding partner.

He also noted both the region and city have jurisdiction over different segments on those roads.

Kerr said while staff should look into things, it is not a “no brainer” decision.

“There are many moving parts of this that need to be considered,” he said.

He also noted the City of Oshawa lacks a “ring road” around the downtown, which he says is a key element to a successful rejuvenation project.

Committee chair and Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri, who also noted the potential cost, hopes it possible to find a more “hybrid-solution.”

Something that less expensive,” Marimpietri said.

City council will vote on the matter at its next meeting.