Council scraps traffic changes

FORT FRANCES—Upon recommendation from the Downtown Core Committee, town council voted 5-2 on Monday night in favour of eliminating certain traffic changes in the report which drew fire at a public meeting here two weeks ago.
In a June 21 report from the “core” committee, members recommended “that the traffic patterns in the ‘core’ area remain status quo as per the wishes of the general public and the stakeholders as indicated by them at the public meeting” on June 13 at the Memorial Sports Centre.
“This portion of the report should be removed from the mandate of this committee,” it continued.
These proposed traffic pattern changes included (in Phase One) to make Central Avenue one-way from Scott Street south and make Church Street one-way from Mowat Avenue west to the entrance to the bridge.
According to the initial report, these street changes would make the Customs area a secure zone, permitting traffic within it to only flow towards the U.S.
Then in a second phase, Central Avenue would be closed from Second Street East to Church Street to allow for future expansion at Abitibi-Consolidated in exchange for a current section of green space and parking lots owned by the mill.
This would provide new parking behind the Mowat Avenue businesses to compensate for any lost on-street spaces. Specialized parking, such as pull throughs, could be incorporated, according to the report.
And in third phase, an east-west truck route link would be created north of town connecting Colonization Road East with King’s Highway in the Eighth Street area.
This would mean the designation of Portage Avenue as the truck route from the north of town to the U.S. and Abitibi mill.
In its June 21 report, the Downtown Core Committee also recommended council proceed with the remainder of the recommendations in the report, including but not limited to:
•the “Great Canadian Main Street” sign;
•angled parking on the 200 block of First Street East;
•utilizing vacant properties on and/or adjacent to Scott Street for parking and/or event;
•pursuing property to accommodate pull-through parking;
•pursuing setting up a University of Manitoba architecture department design studio; and
•continuing discussion with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism as to the relocation of the tourist information centre.
Couns. Roy Avis, Tannis Drysdale, Todd Hamilton, Neil Kabel, and Rick Wiedenhoeft voted in favour of the recommendations in the June 21 report while Mayor Dan Onichuk and Coun. John Albanese voted against them.
Mayor Onichuk noted that axing parts of the downtown core report goes against the recommendation which council agreed to carry out last fall when it first received the initial report—specifically having the Planning Advisory Committee review and report back to council on the most appropriate use of lands deemed available.
“I can’t believe it. We haven’t gone through the process,” added the mayor, noting that while there may be concerns about certain aspects of the core report, these should be addressed—as council previously agreed they would be—through the Planning Advisory Committee.
“We’re going down a path without doing any research. It’s blatantly wrong,” he charged, adding many details like cost and land availability haven’t even been determined and plans are being abandoned.
“I’m really concerned we latched onto a commitment for long-term planning in the community and now we’re throwing it out the door,” the mayor remarked.
He also noted council shouldn’t ignore border security and mill safety issues that the traffic flow recommendations try to rectify in favour of what a half-dozen business owners had to say at the June 13 meeting.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale said she felt the committee should move forward with aspects of the report they feel comfortable with—like branding and moving the tourist information centre—and put aside those parts that the June 13 meeting showed the public did not agree with.
“My interpretation of the meeting is that the public did not support [the proposed traffic flow changes],” she remarked.
“The message given that night is that the people are against some traffic flow changes,” agreed Coun. Roy Avis, adding he felt the town doesn’t have the time, money, or expertise to carry out many of the recommendations in the report anyway.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft concurred some of the traffic flow recommendations were clearly opposed at the public meeting, and that pursuing them further would be “a waste of time.”
While there was some discussion that the report from the Downtown Core Committee be deferred to Economic Development Advisory Committee for recommendation, and then come back to council for a vote (since the EDAC is the parent committee of the Downtown Core Committee), Coun. Hamilton noted it’s quite possible it would come back with the same recommendations.
Council then voted on the new recommendations from the “core” committee.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)