Waterloo wins sustainability award

The City of Waterloo continues to show its excellence in not only advanced technology but advanced thinking when it comes to green initiatives and long term sustainability goals.

Last week, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) unveiled the winners of the 2012 Sustainable Communities Awards. This program recognizes municipal projects across Canada that demonstrate excellence in environmental responsibility. The Awards were announced at a ceremony during the FCM’s Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show (SCC) in Ottawa.

Waterloo received the Sustainable Community award for its transportation sector, specifically in relation to the Davenport Road, multi-use corridor improvement. “It was a road safety community project,” said Chris Hodgins, project manager for the Davenport improvement initiative.

Davenport Road used to be a four lane, semi-populated traffic area that separated the two communities on either side of the road. In 2005 there was a traffic study done that identified high speed, a lot of collision a lack of pedestrian and cycling facilities in the area, particularly crossing the road. The people conducting the study recommended taking the road from four lanes down to two and to add bike lanes as well as turn lanes.

“A few years later,” Hodgins explained, “We applied to the Build Canada Stimulus fund and we were successful with using that study as the basis of the application. That process allowed us to undertake the design and to capture those elements of the study — and actually we went over and above that.”

Hodgins explained that the original study mainly referenced including only pedestrian islands. What ended up being part of the final project was this and much more. “What the finished article is,” Hodgins said, “is really a lot of landscape medians so that’s added to the aesthetics of the street.”

The project also included a bike box, which Hodgins explained is the first of it in the region.

A bike box is a protected staging area for cyclists at the traffic lights at Davenport and Lexington Road that gives cyclists protection when they’re turning left, and gives them some priority over the cars since vehicles will have to wait behind them.

“We also put in what we call an open smart channel at that same intersection,” added Hodgins, “Which is also safer for pedestrians and cyclists in that area when they’re turning right.”

Also included were what Hodgins called bicycle ‘lay-bys’ which is where the crosswalks and pedestrian walk ways link onto Davenport.

It’s an area where cyclists in the cycling can safely turn left down to a side street and can stop there while waiting for a break in traffic if they’re not comfortable moving into the left turn lane. “It’s just another added device to try and relate to different experienced cyclists,” Hodgins said.

In short, the four-lane Davenport area was downsized to a two-lane traffic district, which received the sustainability award due to the elements of design that have improved the environment.

“For example, we reduced the surface footprint by at least ten per cent, and by narrowing down to two lanes we’re using less road salt and less passes with the plow,” said Hodgins.

“We greened the area — there’s more than 300 native species of trees have gone in, which will absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide per year.”

“As well,” he continued, “Because of the active transportation shelters we put in [transit shelters, transit pads, bike lanes, pedestrian crossing facilities] all these will help to bring people to the corridor and across the corridor by biking or walking and increase [public] transit use, so that’s all part of that green element.”

Phase three of the project is hoped to be completed by this summer, and as of now, the projected and current costs of the project are all within budget, which is funded by the Build Canada Fund.

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