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City council approves design for new 10th Street bridge

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The new 10th Street bridge will have the same number of traffic lanes and configuration as the current 107-year-old structure, which Owen Sound is planning to replace in 2020.
City council approved that design, recommended by the project’s consultants and city staff, Monday after twice delaying a vote on the plan to seek additional information on other options that it hoped could improve traffic flow on Owen Sound’s busiest street.
Dennis Kefalas, director of public works and engineering, said council’s decision keeps the $7.5-million replacement project on track to be substantially completed by a Dec. 31, 2020, funding deadline.
“We’re thinking construction will start next fall, in October or November. So just over a year from now,” he said in an interview.
The new precast concrete, girder-style bridge will still have two eastbound and two westbound lanes as well as sidewalks on both sides. The only change is the westbound right turn lane will be slightly wider than it is now, which will create more room for plowed snow and allow vehicles to use it throughout the year, Kefalas said.
“What happens now is in the dead of the winter and when we have continuous snow events, we end up using that lane as snow storage. So essentially half the lane disappears and you’re not really able to use that lane so it goes down to a four-lane bridge,” he said.
John Slocombe of GM BluePlan, the consultants for the project, presented the preferred design alternative to council Aug. 27, as part of an environmental assessment process.
Council did not approve the recommendation, but asked staff to present more information at the Sept. 10 meeting on why certain design alternatives were rejected.
One of the options was to build a wider 10th Street bridge with six instead of five lanes. The two northernmost lanes would directly link 1st avenues east and west and could only be used to get between the city’s northeast and northwest quadrants.
In a report, Kefalas said that alternative was rejected for several reasons, including the added $2.3 million cost. In addition, it would significantly limit how vehicles could use sections of 1st avenues east and west and the new lanes would have tight turning radii and require the city to eliminate loading areas for some businesses near the bridge, the report said.
After receiving the report, council asked staff to return with more information on another option for the bridge – this time on a “fifth lane” alternative.
Under that proposal, the northernmost fifth lane of the bridge would be used not as a westbound right turn lane, as it is now, but as a wraparound lane to directly link 1st avenues east and west. It would be a one-way westbound lane for the first 12 hours of each day and a one-way eastbound lane for the other 12.
GM BluePlan, in a report council received Monday, did not recommend approving the “alternating fifth lane” option.”
While the lane would improve traffic flow on the 10th Street bridge’s eastbound and westbound lanes by eight to 16 per cent, the consultants found it would increase traffic levels at other intersections to well beyond capacity.
The option would also add $1.2 million to the replacement project’s cost, the consultants said, as the city would have to widen the bridge, reconstruct the 11th Street and 1st Avenue East intersection, install six new traffic signals and relocate high-voltage hydro lines.
The added work would also delay completion of the project, which would put the city at risk of losing the $3 million committed by the Ministry of Transportation.
Kefalas told council that the overall traffic system on 10th Street will have to change to reduce congestion.
“We could make this bridge eight lanes wide, but it wouldn’t really improve things on 10th Street. The biggest thing we have to do and the biggest tool at our disposal (to improve traffic flow) is doing something with the traffic lights and the traffic signals,” he said.
The city has begun looking into the idea of moving to an “intelligent traffic control system” for its signals, he said.
“It’s smart technology where everything’s linked together. You use cameras to actually identify traffic counts and see how traffic is moving and building and once that happens, it understands that it has to start extending the periods that the traffic lights allow traffic to go through certain intersections,” Kefalas said.
Coun. Richard Thomas said he’s happy the city spent the extra time to look at other design options for the bridge, but it’s clear, based on the staff and consultant reports, that the solution to congestion on 10th Street does not lie in the configuration of the bridge.
“I’m disappointed. I’d like there to be a magical answer that solves all the problems of congestion down there, but I just don’t think it exists and I especially don’t think it exists with the timeframes that we have to work with in order to keep that $3 million the province has provided us with,” he said.
“So I think we should get on with it and get this project moving.”

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