During Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Smiths Falls, town council received a report on Phase 2 of the Beckwith Street Revitalization from James Fookes of Morrison Hershfield and Scott Mason of CSW Landscape Architects. This report required decisions from council on four issues: whether or not the free-flow right turn lane from Elmsley onto Beckwith should be eliminated; whether the proposed pedestrian crossing should be on the north or south of the Beckwith Street and Church Street intersection; what the town’s gateway feature should look like; and where this feature should be placed.
This proved to be a challenging task for council, as only six citizens had voiced their opinion about these features of Phase 2 on the town’s survey platform, Speak Up Smiths Falls. Council was unanimous in support of keeping the pedestrian crossing on the south side of the Beckwith/Church intersection, as the traffic study shows that the entrance to Burger King and Tim Hortons does not allow sufficient space for vehicles to stop behind a northside crosswalk.
Discussion about eliminating the free-flow right turn lane was lively. The traffic study suggests that allowing a right turn on a red light, from a designated right-turn lane, would provide optimal safety for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians and would add no noticeable wait time for motorists.
Councillor Dwyer noted that as a driver, she would prefer the free-flow right turn to remain. Also, she pointed out that “we should ask for the Traffic Advisory Committee’s input,” as council has asked them for input in circumstances that are less impactful than this.
Mayor Pankow shared an alternate view, that drivers can adapt “for the benefit of pedestrian safety; the elimination of the free-flowing lane makes sense.”
Councillor McGuire suggested the decision on this matter be deferred, and Councillor Brennan agreed. “I support that suggestion. This is a big decision; we need to take some time.”
Decisions were also deferred on the placement and appearance of the gateway feature.
Council expressed discouragement with the lack of citizen engagement via the Speak Up Smiths Falls platform.