A Chatham councillor hopes his upcoming motion on Monday will help keep Victoria Avenue just the way it is while still allowing for some infrastructure improvements to take place.
Proposed redesign work on the historic street drew some controversy pre-pandemic earlier this year, with residents taking exception to the preliminary plans.
Coun. Michael Bondy said Thursday that residents are still very much tuned in.
“(They’re) very polite and reserved, but they’ve been very loud and clear,” he said. “If council’s listening, I don’t think we’re going to have much trouble.”
Bondy, who lives on Victoria, said he checked with the municipality’s integrity commissioner to ensure he wasn’t in a conflict of interest.
“I’m just representing the citizens,” he said. “It’s their motion.”
The motion states the following:
- That Victoria Avenue underground infrastructure proceed as planned. The street’s original design, including original sidewalks, boulevards, two-direction street traffic and original lamp posts be maintained.
- The area from McNaughton Avenue to Thames Street not incorporate a multi-use asphalt path.
- Any and all trees that were slated for removal be retained and appropriately trimmed. All trees on Victoria Avenue within the scope of the projected project be properly maintained and therefore not removed.
- Retaining the original design of Victoria Avenue prevents the creation of asphalt strips adjacent to the roadway to keep the walkway safe for all pedestrians.
- Adult cyclists will continue to safely travel the roadway of Victoria Avenue. “Not removing six metres of green grass and replacing it with asphalt complies with the municipality’s recent declaration of a climate emergency policy,” it read.
- The money saved by not redesigning Victoria Avenue, and simply replacing the underground infrastructure, be directed to the emergency needs of Erie Shore Drive and its residents.
“Victoria Avenue would not appear any differently after construction than it is today, as has been for almost 200 years, aside from perhaps road narrowing and speed humps to calm traffic,” the motion also states.
Bondy said having one cycle-friendly sidewalk and another pedestrian-friendly side would allow for active transportation without altering the historic design.
According to a staff report slated to come before council Monday for information purposes, the goal is to have the project tende -ready in the event that any potential federal or provincial funding becomes available.
“It is the intention of administration that the project continue to receive capital funding in 2021 and 2022, so construction activities associated with the project can then proceed in multiple phases occurring in future years as budget permits,” the report stated.
In a previous interview, Chris Thibert, Chatham-Kent’s director of engineering and transportation, said the municipality wants to separate the underground storm and sanitary sewers in the neighbourhood.
Since that involves heavy construction work, it also presents options for a “more accomplished project.”
Thibert said the municipality is looking at improvements to the cycling infrastructure and accessible walking facilities while introducing traffic-calming features and improving intersections.
“There is a lot of heritage,” he said at the time. “There are a lot of beautiful trees with beautiful streetscaping and landscaping down there and, at no point with this project, do we ever have a goal or anticipate ever wanting to destroy that.”
Monday’s report notes a draft concept of the Victoria Avenue Infrastructure Renewal project was presented at a previous public information session that identified three trees proposed for removal as a result of the project.
“Two of the trees are small young trees in close proximity to the roadway that may be able to be relocated or, if not, easily replaced with similar trees following construction,” the report states.
“Several discussions took place at the PIC advising of the safety issues identified with the 19 trees that were not related to the project scope. It is one of the main goals of the project to protect and preserve the trees as much as possible and to maintain the natural coverage and characteristics of the corridor.
Current project timeline
- June 2020 to September 2020 – Proceed with detailed design of entire project with the following design intent:
- Continue with the main attributes of the project, which include sewer separation, installation of a dedicated storm sewer with private services, watermain replacement, road resurfacing and curb and gutter to improve road and boulevard drainage.
- Include 1.5 metre-wide “in-road” bike lanes along both sides of Victoria Avenue from McNaughton Avenue to Thames Street.
- Leave the existing sidewalk in its current location with no proposed work on it at this time.
- Include the traffic circle at Gladstone/Stephenson and Victoria Avenue.
- Widen Victoria Avenue at Grand Avenue and McNaughton Avenue to include left turn lanes.
- Continue with decorative streetlights along Victoria from Amelia to McNaughton.
- September/October 2020 – Present new design to the public at the second public information session.
- November 2020 to April 2021 – Submit project approvals to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
- May 2021 to August 2021 – Finalize tender and specification packages.
- Fall 2021 – Tender Phase 1 (as budget permits) for construction in 2022.
- Fall 2022 – Tender Phase 2 (as budget permits) for construction in 2023.