The redevelopment of Beckwith Street in Smiths Falls will be going ahead, and bringing several improvements, but one thing that will be staying is angle parking.
A majority of town councillors, arguing that most of the people they represent want angle parking to stay, voted at a special council meeting Feb. 26 for a street design that keeps the traditional arrangements. However, as Councillor Jay Brennan stated, there will be some changes after the redevelopment is completed.
The chosen design will see raised intersections installed at the intersections with Main and Russell Streets as a traffic calming measure, as well as pedestrian activated crosswalks at the intersections with William and Church Streets. The northern entrance to Beckwith will also be modified to create a more picturesque and pedestrian-friendly “gateway” to the downtown.
Engineering consultants from the firm Parsons originally submitted two design options for council’s consideration, but recommended an option they called a “complete street.” That design featured parallel parking, which was intended to create extra room for wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes, making the street more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as cars.
The other option, which four of seven councillors decided to choose, keeps angle parking, leaving no room for bike lanes.
The redevelopment plans were triggered by the need to replace the aging infrastructure under the street – water and sewer mains – which are close to a century old.
“I have friends on both sides of this issue,” said Maloney. “It’s hard to ignore 80 per cent of people’s opinion when we asked them for it.”
Council was also informed at the Feb. 26 meeting that $933,000 in provincial funding for the work (90 per cent of the cost of the storm and sanitary sewer separation phase of the work) has been confirmed.
The consultants’ final report was presented to council on Feb. 20, but detailed discussion and the final vote were deferred until Feb. 26, to allow all members of council to be present. The council chamber was also packed with spectators interested in the outcome.
“This is an issue that I’ve struggled with,” commented Brennan, before confirming that he would vote for angle parking to stay.
Councillor John Maloney stated that 80 per cent of the people he had spoken to about the project wanted to keep angle parking. “I have friends on both sides of this issue,” said Maloney. “It’s hard to ignore 80 per cent of people’s opinion when we asked them for it.”
Councillors Dawn Quinn and Joe Gallipeau agreed that the majority of feedback they had received from town residents also supported keeping angle parking.
Mayor Shawn Pankow and Councillors Lorraine Allen and Chris Cummings spoke in favour of the consultants’ recommendation: a move to parallel parking and bike lanes.
In the end, it was just three council members who wanted to go with the recommended design that included parallel parking and bike lanes (Pankow, Allen, and Cummings) with four councillors (Joe Gallipeau, Maloney, Brennan, and Quinn) wanting to keep angle parking.