Opinion| Buckle-up for the Inevitable on Albert and East Streets

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Well, with the assistance of Mayor Christian Provenzano, I got what passes as a report from the experts – CIMA+ – in regard to the controversial new traffic configuration at the intersection of Albert and East Streets.

But, although I was not satisfied with what I received as it was simply an illustration of the immediate area, it appeared it was all I was going to get.

Because, in response to further questions, I received the following email from Larry Girardi, deputy chief administrative officer.

“Good Morning Doug, I appreciate your continued interest in this issue but I don’t feel my team has any more to add. CIMA+ is a well-respected engineering group that we rely on for direction in situations such as this. Please be assured that these decisions are not taken lightly and thus the reason to include experts. In reference to signage, we have been communicating with CIMA+ the delay in the removal of the yield signal (on East Street) and you will see signage changes over the course of the next year.”

I, of course, believed Girardi’s team did have more to add.

And I found, through a Freedom of Information Request, that indeed it did.

In January I had received the following email from Susan Hamilton Beach, under her previous title of deputy commissioner of Public Works and Traffic:

“A report was not a product of the CIMA+ review. They were asked to review all historical paint drawings and the 2015 drawing and provide us with their recommendation as to the best lane configuration for the area.  After a review by their team, the conclusion was the current (2015) configuration. We asked for an updated paint drawing for our contractor based on their review. The cost of their review and the revised paint and sign drawing has an upset limit of $1700.  (We have not yet been invoiced, so the actual cost may be less.)”

I had asked for a copy of a report from CIMA+ because I thought one had to be there, but it was not forthcoming until the mayor got involved. I also thought there had to be a letter accompanying the paint drawings and 2015 layout that were submitted to CIMA+.

As they didn’t come my way with the CIMA+ material I filed a Freedom of Information request a week ago Friday asking for everything that was provided CIMA+.

I received an FOI package from the city’s legal department on Wednesday and found an email sent by Hamilton Beach to Stephen Keen at CIMA+ but no indication there was a reply. I had asked earlier for a contact at CIMA+ but had not received one, nor have I been told what the actual cost was.

“Hi, Stephen,” Hamilton Beach’s email to Keen began.

“We are looking for some assistance with a line-painting change that was made through the course of last year’s painting season and caused some discussion. The intersection of question is East Street and Albert Street. I have included painting drawings —2004 and Jan 2015 revision. The lane noted as eastbound (actually east of the island) was not historically a through lane. Last year it was painted as a through lane and the other 2 lanes (west bound and east bound) adjusted. This intersection is now painted similar to Pim and East Street (I think she meant Pim and Queen Street or maybe Bay as East Street is not in that picture). The geometrics of the two locations are similar but not identical.

“CIMA’s expertise and recommendation would be appreciated here. If any further information is required, please advise.”

In the FOI package I found the drawings provided CIMA+ to be woefully inadequate.

Cut off at about the entrance to the medical clinic on East Street, they show only the intersection of Albert and East Streets. To present a proper picture of the movement of traffic in the area, it was necessary to include the intersection of East and Wellington Streets. That would have shown CIMA+ how the two lanes of traffic from Albert Street previously flowed smoothly up East Street to connect with traffic both eastbound and westbound on Wellington Street.

From the material the city provided, anyone who didn’t know the area would assume under the new configuration that the two lanes from Albert, along with the one carrying traffic from East Street, would be heading directly north for some distance. Therefore there would be no problem taking out the yield sign on East Street, as CIMA+ recommends in the illustration it returned to the city.

I imagine, though, a jury would take a different view if an accident occurs because of the missing yield sign, something of which I think both the city and CIMA+ should be cognizant. I see removing the yield sign as irresponsible at the least, criminal at the worst.

I contacted CIMA+ hoping to get its take on the issue but Brian Malone, vice-president transportation, said although CIMA+ was engaged by the city for the works, “Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to divulge to third parties any information regarding our efforts on the project.”

As you know from my previous writings on this subject, the lane configuration was changed last year by the line painters. It was a mistake, plain and simple, then was compounded by the city traffic people who, rather than ordering an immediate correction, went along with it. It was only after receiving complaints from within and without that an approach was made to CIMA+.

Under the new configuration, the north lane of traffic on Albert Street becomes what amounts to a U-turn. It serves only those employed at or visiting the school board or business operations between Brock and East Streets, allowing them to get to Wellington westbound, something they already had.
The south lane of traffic on Albert Street now goes north on East Street to Wellington East. Traffic heading north on East Street has a dedicated lane going north to Wellington East. There is a yield sign at the egress point at the moment but it is to come out, which I think is dangerous in the extreme.

As a result, I contacted Sgt. Ray Magnan of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service traffic department.

“I cannot comment on the placement or removal of traffic control measures, that area of responsibility lies with the City Board of Works Traffic Section,” Magnan said in an email.

“As for your example, it is the responsibility of the driver changing lanes to ensure it can be done in safety, so if there is a northbound car approaching it would have the right of way in its lane. Neither of the drivers may change lanes unless it can be done in safety.

“I believe there are lane signs located there as well to indicate which lane of motorists are to use.”

Yes, there are, a small sign on a pole, larger signs on the pavement. All are useless at best.

Earlier this year our city council voted to keep traffic lights at Wallace Terrace and Goulais Avenue. Traffic staff, relying on a traffic count, had suggested a four-way stop would be sufficient.

Council hasn’t uttered a word on the Albert-East issue, probably because no one has brought it up in chambers, a sign, I suppose, because none of them care.

Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker, who travels the route daily and describes it as “crazy,” says he thinks “it is way more dangerous the way the lines currently are than the way they were before. Plus, everyone still treats the lines like they used to be painted, which makes the situation twice as dangerous.”

He says his personal opinion is that the liability risk is greater the way it currently is than it would be to go back to the way it was.

However, while he supports putting the lines back the way they were, he says from the feedback he has gotten from his colleagues he believes it would be futile to bring forward such a motion.

So I guess we just wait, if that yield sign on East Street does come out, for the accident that will bring about the required change.

Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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