Right Design – Wrong Location

Pipestone Flyer

 

 

One of the backwards facing benches in downtown Wetaskiwin.

 

Back in July, 2012 when Phase I of the Main Street Revitalization was in the midst of construction and the crews were battling the hot weather, installation of the sidewalks and curbs had begun. Residents were provided a real-life look at the design that was unfolding from all the design charrettes and open houses conducted in 2010.  The result. The new design was quite different than what residents remembered the street to be. Sidewalks curved out into what was once the street, and what was once a turning lane was now part of the sidewalk.

It was time to reflect back on the objectives created by the City for the construction of the street and compare them with the final product to see if they have been met.

  “During the entire planning process it is important to Wetaskiwin to note the Project Team has been, and will be guided by the following objectives:

o  To work with stakeholders to create a plan that people embrace.

o  To understand the existing street pattern, texture, uses and challenges.

o  To achieve safety for pedestrians and vehicles through the main street corridor.

o  To maintain acceptable levels of traffic flow and parking along 50th Avenue and identify opportunities for bicycles and alternative modes of transportation as well as future transit stops.

o  To achieve functionality of public spaces and their interface with adjoining private land holdings while maintaining pedestrian flow.

o  To create an aesthetically pleasing environment that provides Universal Accessibility.

o  To create a streetscape that can be operated year round

o  To implement cost effective sustainable initiatives within the design and implementation.

o  To create a design that incorporates CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles.

o  To minimize disruption to businesses during construction”.

On November 16th during the Firefighters Parade, the Mayor and other dignitaries cut the ribbon that  officially opened Phase I and it was ready for business. Or was it? In a recent announcement from City Hall they announce:  “ Phase I of our main street revitalization is now complete. The intersections of 50 Avenue & 49 Street, and 50 Avenue & 50 Street will function as a four-way stop until the traffic lights are installed later this month (November).

Thank you to those who have shared their thoughts about Wetaskiwin's new section of Main Street. It seems the designated left-hand turning lanes are causing some confusion, especially when the snow on the ground prevents a clean indication of where your vehicle should be.

Here are a few friendly tips on how to successfully navigate the new portion of Wetaskiwin's main street: 

1) Please remember that the only intersections designated left-hand turning lanes at this time are:

48 Street & 50 Avenue (by Mickey's Flowers).

49 Street & 50 Avenue (by Hanson's Paint).

50 Street & 50 Avenue (by TD Bank). 

2) If you cannot see the road lines, look for nearby traffic signs to guide you. It is recommended that you stay to the right while traveling through the intersections listed above, as the middle of the roadway is reserved for those who are turning left. 

3) Watch for pedestrians! If you are unsure where the driving lanes are located, slow down and stay alert for pedestrians while navigating the new intersections. 

4) Please ensure that you are not blocking the flow of traffic when you park your vehicle on Main Street. It is recommended that you do not park within 10 metres of the new intersections. 

5) As always, change takes some time to get used to. We ask for your patience as you explore the recently revitalized portion of Main Street, and we encourage you to keep the feedback coming our way! “

With a little imagination looking forward to next summer when all ice and snow is  gone, the street is lined with trees, the traffic lights are working, there is warm sunshine, Phase I will be a more attractive design. In the meantime it’s just proving to be confusing and not very functional for vehicle traffic. The guiding arrows in the pavement and some on the light posts direct traffic to the right hand lane to go through an intersection. Traffic  in the centre lane is designated to be turning left, only. This is going to be a habit that is hard to break. 

City Council had advised the public they had, “acquired multiyear grants (2011-2013) to pay for the Main Street Revitalization project of which 90% has to be done because the infrastructure requires upgrading and the streets need to be replaced. The other 10% will provide designs that will improve traffic flow and operations, create a pedestrian-friendly environment and enhance the street’s visual appeal and functionality.”  

The new street lights, bollards, trash receptacles and benches are attractive and fit the preferred Renaissance/Victorian design chosen by the City. But somehow, benches facing the storefronts and placed close to the street doesn’t seem like a safety feature as explained to City Council. The short bollards will be difficult to see and create uncertainty when parallel parking.

I like the street…but a new concept in a different location

Wetaskiwin is striving to be unique, different, and attractive. The design of Phase I of Main Street is unique. It’s different. It’s even attractive. But it’s in the wrong location.  As planning for Phase II, west from the TD Bank, begins, the City would use the same design (with minor modifications – turn the benches facing the street) but a key concept in the plans would be to have this section of Main Street designated for pedestrian traffic, only. Vehicle traffic would be re-routed a block north or south and except for special events such as parades this section of Main Street would be for pedestrians, only and become  the ‘City Square’. The street would be lined with unique shops, patio pubs and cafes, coffee houses, restaurants, ….all very similar to White Avenue in Edmonton but with the added feature of pedestrian traffic , only. The ‘City Square would provide locals and visitors with a unique setting where they could visit, shop, relax or enjoy a variety of special events such as the Ag and Arts Festival, Arts and Craft shows, Farmers Markets….the potential is endless.

O.K. so I know this won’t happen but I can envision how a unique concept can be more attractive to potential businesses when added to a unique design. It’s one thing to say ‘let’s build a pretty street and they will come’ than to provide something value-added to that pretty street.

Hey, did I mention the other idea… a live webcam (camera) on the top of the Water Tower so people from around the world could view our City and residents could check out the weather conditions back home when on that special winter trip to Cuba? 

This is one person’s opinion. You be the judge.

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