Upgrades considered for King St. N

Community members attended a third public hearing to consider road changes on King Street North. (Photo by Heather Davidson)
Community members attended a third public hearing to consider road changes on King Street North. (Photo by Heather Davidson)

Collectively, the City of Waterloo and Region of Waterloo have budgeted roughly $3 million to improve Waterloo’s streetscape.

It started in 2010, when an environmental assessment planned improvements for Uptown Waterloo along King Street North from Erb Street to Central Street.

Since then, much information has been collected, focusing primarily on existing conditions and potential “servicing needs” in Waterloo.

Last Wednesday, a third public consultation was held to showcase changes that are being planned for the street, as well as to consider streetscape improvements.

Essentially, the event was for citizens to learn more about what is to come with King Street North.

“The purpose of this is to get some input from as many people as we can and what we’re proposing to do with that street,” said Don Drackley, uptown streetscape project manager and a transportation planner at the IBI Group, an engineering and planning practice.

“Uptown Waterloo is going to change in the next ten years and all we’re doing is trying to make sure that it is working for you.”

The Streetscape Improvement Project has several objectives. The project aims to make King Street North more accessible for all modes of transportation and to co-ordinate streetscape design elements that improve the quality of business life in the Region of Waterloo.
There is also an emphasis in creating an environment that offers a safe and accessible place to “work, live, shop, learn and play.”

“The section of King Street between Erb and University has some of the worst collision history in the Region of Waterloo,” Drackley said.
King Street and Willis Way to Erb Street are ranked number one for collisions involving buses, and King and Dupont Streets have the most collisions with parked cars.

The King and Bridgeport Road intersection also has the second highest rates of pedestrian-related collisions.

“The traffic conditions in terms of vehicle and safety has not been good enough in Uptown Waterloo,” he added.

Proposed changes include replacing existing street lighting – which are reportedly thirty years old – replacing existing sidewalks, increasing accessibility, design “complete streets” for all modes of transportation and reconstructing the infrastructure of King Street North.

These “reconstructions” could very well include creating one lane per direction and left turn lanes approaching Erb Street and Bridgeport or a continuous two-way left turn lane, on-street parking and dedicated bike lanes.

“There’s actually two projects,” explained Barb Magee Turner,  project manager from the City of Waterloo.

“The city-initiated project is the King Street North Improvement project and it is an environmental assessment looking at ways to improve the street from basically the ION Tracks,” she said. “The second project from Central [St.] to University Ave is a regional initiative and it, too, is looking at streetscape improvements.”

Both teams are trying to address creating a better street for all modes of transportation.

After Wednesday’s public meeting, the information collected will be configured with the project team and see what kind of recommendations they can make.

Then, the team will bring their issues to city and regional councils.

“If everything goes as planned, some construction will happen in 2014 and some will finish in 2015,” Drackley said. “But this is just the section from the LRT tracks to Central,” Drackley said.

“The section from Central to University Ave is not scheduled for construction until 2019.”

It is estimated that the proposed changes to King Street North would cause the diversion of an additional 5 to 15 per cent of Uptown traffic to seek alternative routes.

Based on a predicted year of 2031, this diversion would tally up to a “projected volume of 1800 vehicles” in the evening peak hour period.

“We’ve got an awful lot of people moving into the neighbourhood who are going to want to walk inside the neighbourhood,” Magee Turner said. ”That’s what tonight is all about.”

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