01-27-2010, 11:23 AM
Round and round we go
Region considers 12 roundabouts for Franklin Boulevard
June 04, 2008
CAMBRIDGE - Imagine a string of 12 big roundabouts along Franklin Boulevard, replacing stoplights at every major intersection from Pinebush Road to the south city limits.
It's the vision Waterloo Region is investigating with computer traffic models, as part of a $500,000 study to keep cars and trucks moving on the overburdened, four-lane road.
Nothing has been decided, but roundabouts -- maybe lots of them -- are in the running to solve festering rush-hour traffic delays on the major north-south artery.
Bill Gilbert, the Waterloo Region road engineer overseeing the study, puts the issue this way: "If we proceed with a couple of roundabouts at key locations, can that assist us in delaying the need to go to six lanes? Rather than doing it in 10 years, maybe you can wait 20 years."
The Franklin environmental assessment started a year ago, with a budget of $350,000. It's been boosted by $150,000 for hiring roundabout experts to crunch traffic data for a project that stretches eight kilometres.
The extra work has delayed completion of a preferred option to present to the public for comment. Gilbert hopes to have a plan to ready for a public meeting in September.
Construction isn't planned until 2011 to 2014.
A few roads have multiple roundabouts on them -- such as the new Ira Needles Boulevard -- but these can't compare to rebuilding a major road while ripping out stoplights and altering decades of traffic thinking.
"I do know that part of the difficulty in the analysis is there's not a lot of research out there (for roundabouts) in longer corridors," Gilbert said.
Traffic engineers say modern roundabouts can move more traffic more safely than stoplight intersections. They are also more environmentally friendly, because cars don't have to idle at red lights.
They do cost more to build and need more land than stoplight intersections. But there's no continuing cost for signal maintenance.
South of Avenue Road, roundabouts may delay the need for widening where houses and businesses are close to the curbs.
It appears six lanes of traffic will be needed north of there, to handle all the traffic from industries, Gilbert said. Also under consideration are raised medians on Franklin.
"If there are medians, roundabouts help," Gilbert said. "They allow you to make U-turns."
While the study is nearing completion, the search for a safe pedestrian crossing of Highway 401 at Franklin won't start until next year. Initially, regional officials hoped the crossing issue would be a part of the Franklin widening study. Not any more.
"It's a bigger project than just adding a little sidewalk to the side of the road," said Paula Sawicki, the region's manager of strategic transportation planning.
She hopes a study will get underway next year.
Cambridge just completed a bikeways master plan calling for a north-south link over the 401, said Cathy Robertson, the city's engineering director.
That study, however, isn't enough to pick a location for a new, multi-use bridge.
Roundabouts galore for Franklin Boulevard
October 18, 2008
CAMBRIDGE - Traffic planners propose 11 roundabouts on Franklin Boulevard, rather than widening the congested road.
Starting in 2012, roundabouts would be built from Pinebush Road in the north to Champlain Road in the south.
Just one intersection would have traffic lights, at Glamis and Robson streets.
A raised centre median would remove left turns, restricting driveway and street access to right-in and right-out. This would reduce collisions while allowing drivers to make safe U-turns at roundabouts.
Planners say the $44-million roundabout plan is the best option to handle growing traffic and improve safety. Widening Franklin would cost $38 million. But planners say this would not solve intersection delays or ease collisions.
Roundabouts require space. There would be "significant property impacts" at intersections, a report warns.
The proposal is up for public consultation on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the francophone centre, 647 Franklin Blvd., with a presentation at 6 p.m.
Round and round we go
Cambridge considers traffic alternative for 11 intersections on Franklin Boulevard
October 22, 2008
CAMBRIDGE - Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig likes a $44-million proposal to dismantle traffic lights and put 11 roundabouts on Franklin Boulevard.
And tomorrow, motorists in Cambridge will be able to weigh in on the plan that would change Franklin Boulevard dramatically.
A public consultation will be held from 4:30 to 8 p.m., with a presentation at 6 p.m., at the Francophone Centre, 647 Franklin Blvd.
"I think it's a very positive approach to traffic problems on the east side of Cambridge," Craig said yesterday in an interview about the roundabout proposal. He figures roundabouts would move traffic smoothly and also reduce collisions.
Other Cambridge councillors are cautious but agree roundabouts are worth considering.
"Until I understand the design, I don't have an opinion," Regional Coun. Claudette Millar said.
Regional Coun. Jane Brewer doubts drivers are ready for so many traffic circles.
"I think the public will begin to say, enough is enough," she said. "Are we doing an overkill on that specific road?"
Franklin Boulevard is badly congested and suffers regular traffic delays. Regional council plans to approve a solution next year.
Planners say converting to roundabouts would be better -- for drivers and pedestrians -- than adding lanes.
"It will be one of the biggest projects in North America in terms of roundabouts in a row," said Steve van De Keere, head of transportation expansion for regional government.
Widening Franklin with additional driving lanes would cost $38 million.
The road would widen to six lanes between Pinebush and Avenue roads and to four lanes between Avenue and Myers roads.
Roundabouts would keep Franklin four lanes wide, except for six lanes between the Can-Amera and Saginaw parkways and two lanes south of Champlain Boulevard.
Regional council has built 11 roundabouts since 2004. There are five on Ira Needles Boulevard in west Kitchener and Waterloo.
Regional Chair Ken Seiling likes the roundabout proposal.
"This is one way to keep the traffic flowing," he said. "I think there's a lot of public support for roundabouts."
Highlights of the Franklin proposal:
Roundabouts would be built over five years, starting in 2012.
Five north traffic circles would be three-laners, the first in the region. They would also have larger diameters than current roundabouts.
Six south roundabouts would be two-laners.
Traffic signals would operate at Glamis Road and Robson Avenue to help provide breaks in traffic.
Planners also propose cycling lanes and a median. Drivers would make U-turns at roundabouts.
Roundabouts require space at intersections. Planners say 65 private properties would be affected, including four purchased outright. By comparison, road widening would involve 41 properties.
None of those properties would have to be purchased outright.
"There may be some issues around land," Craig said.
Franklin roundabout plan goes to public today in Cambridge
October 23, 2008
CAMBRIDGE -- Have your say today about plans for 11 roundabouts to replace stoplights along busy Franklin Boulevard.
Waterloo Region officials propose big, modern traffic circles at 11 of 12 major intersections, as part of a $44-million rebuilding project for the crumbling, four-lane road between Highway 401 and Myers Road.
The proposal is up for public discussion today during a drop-in session, 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Francophone centre, 647 Franklin Blvd..
Region traffic experts will make a presentation of the plan at 6 p.m., followed by a chance to ask questions.
Roundabouts allow traffic to flow smoother than stoplights, solving a key problem on the congested road. There is one stoplight proposed at a major intersection, at Robson/Glamis. It's there to force gaps in traffic, so rush-hour motorists can more easily enter roundabouts to the north and south.
Here's the regional staff report on the roundabout plan.
The alternative to the roundabout plan is widening Franklin to six lanes and keeping stoplights at a cost of $38 million. Regional staff say that won't fix congestion problems at intersections.
The work on Franklin is proposed to start in 2012 and take five years to complete.
Roundabout fan fears plan to put one near high school
October 24, 2008
CAMBRIDGE - Dennis Ball drives 50,000 kilometres a year in the city, and he likes roundabouts.
But he doesn't like Waterloo Region's $44-million proposal to put 11 of them on Franklin Boulevard in place of stoplights.
"This is a cop out," said Ball, a driver for a car dealership.
He wants the region to be more strategic in its use of roundabouts.
"You're using them just because you know they can work, so you put them everywhere," Ball said.
What's worse, he said, is the idea of a roundabout at Franklin and Saginaw Parkway, where hundreds of students a day cross from St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School.
"Someone is going to get killed."
Regional traffic experts defended the chain of roundabouts -- which would be a first in Canada -- at a public information meeting yesterday at the French club on Franklin Boulevard.
Nobody should fear a roundabout if they're on foot, said Nancy Button, transportation engineering manager for the region.
"We haven't had a pedestrian- vehicle collision at a roundabout . . . in four years."
There are 11 roundabouts in the region, and they keep traffic moving more smoothly than crash-prone stoplights, traffic experts told about 90 people who came to a presentation on the proposal.
In all, about 130 people curious about the plan dropped in during the evening to look at maps, quiz the experts and fill out comment sheets.
Despite assurances, the St. Benedict roundabout "scares me," said daily Franklin motorist Robert Fabbro.
"You're going to have traffic backing up on Franklin as the kids are crossing. . . . Kids are always going back and forth."
The only solution he sees is a pedestrian bridge across the roundabout to keep teens safe and traffic moving.
The goal is to have a plan for Franklin Boulevard by spring, with construction starting in 2012. As the work proceeds south from Pinebush Road over several years, people will learn how to use the big roundabouts, said Cambridge city Coun. Ben Tucci, who sits on the Franklin study committee.
If experience proves changes are needed to the roundabout plan -- the addition of a pedestrian bridge, for example -- they can be made as work proceeds, he said.
Truck driver Steve Hannon has never driven a roundabout and never wants to.
"Truckers you talk to, they hate them. They're worried about taking a truck around and their trailer taking out a car. Truckers will try to avoid the roundabouts."
His wife, Louise, said she doesn't mind roundabouts but worries they'll make Franklin noisier, with trucks changing gears to enter them and leave them.
"I guess I won't be able to talk to my neighbour at the back fence anymore."
Agnes McIntosh of Hilborn Avenue makes a left turn on Franklin every day, so she's ambivalent about the roundabout plan. She knows something has to be done about the growing traffic on Franklin.
The roundabouts and centre medians McIntosh examined on drawings last night were more palatable to her than the thought of turning Franklin into another six-lane Hespeler Road.
"It's the best of whatever has to happen," she said.
Cambridge roundabout plan may seem scary, but there's much to like
October 25, 2008
People who dislike roundabouts will surely trash a proposal to put 11 of them on Franklin Boulevard after 2012.
The ugly alternative is to allow six lanes of fast-moving traffic, basically turning Franklin into Hespeler Road 2. This sounds dreadful.
Franklin is a congested mess north of Avenue Road. There are collision problems at Pinebush Road and also near Clyde Road and Savage Drive.
It got bad because Ontario never built a highway bypass around Cambridge. Also, local politicians scuttled other city road upgrades, citing environmental and neighbourhood concerns.
These are defensible choices but they have caused traffic headaches.
Today there are five roundabouts in a row on Ira Needles Boulevard, which opened last year in west Kitchener and Waterloo. They work fine.
Stringing 11 roundabouts together, with one traffic light in the middle, is a grander version of something already happening.
That said, Franklin is far busier than Ira Needles. And converting a road with established traffic patterns is a bigger hurdle than constructing something new.
With roundabouts, traffic would flow more slowly on just four lanes. The road would be dressed up with bicycle lanes and a large median that could be nicely landscaped. To get around the median, just go all the way around the next circle.
Roundabouts would also slash collisions that cause injuries.
The alternative is to let traffic course along up to six lanes. A wider road invites higher speeds. Traffic would speed unimpeded through green lights. Left-turn lanes at local streets would add more asphalt. Collisions would be more dangerous.
This option, though more familiar to drivers, would be more highway than boulevard.
Several issues need attention in the $44-million roundabout plan.
Are we ready for three-lane roundabouts? Drivers must pick the correct lane before entering. This is an education challenge.
Do we accept property impacts? Four properties would have to be bought to make room for roundabouts. Dozens of other properties would be disrupted.
Will pedestrians be safe? Critics worry about students crossing near St. Benedict high school.
People must be shown why crossing at a roundabout, where traffic is cautious and slow, can be safer than crossing six lanes of asphalt.
There's much to like about the Franklin roundabout proposal.
It would be wrong to reject it out of an instinctive fear of change.
Jeff Outhit can be reached at 519-894-2250, ext. 2654, or firstname.lastname@example.org
A street lined with circles?
Public meeting on Franklin Boulevard proposal draws parents concerned with safety of students
June 18, 2009
CAMBRIDGE - Visions of hundreds St. Benedict Catholic high school students blithely marching through a three-lane roundabout on Franklin Boulevard scared many at a public meeting in the school gym last night.
"I think a roundabout where all the kids are crossing is suicidal, as my 18-year-old son says," said Katarzyna Dymowski, of Saginaw Parkway.
She has two students attending St. Benedict and another starting in September. She was one of two dozen people who spoke at a public meeting about a $50-million Waterloo Region plan for 11 roundabouts along Franklin, from Pinebush Road to Champlain Boulevard. One of the roundabouts is at Saginaw, in front of the school.
"Why build a monster that nobody wants in the city," Dymowski said to applause from 125 people behind her.
Others called for the road study to include costs for a pedestrian bridge over the roundabout. Or a tunnel.
"We will find a way to resolve it. The most concern we have is the school," said Coun. Claudette Millar, who sits on the region's planning and works committee.
"We have heard your message loud and clear," echoed Mayor Doug Craig.
No decisions were made at the meeting. A vote comes in September.
Regional staff presented their preferred solution to keeping traffic moving along Franklin Boulevard, where rush-hour traffic jams are the norm morning and afternoon.
Instead of widening the four-lane road to six lanes north of Main Street, regional staff say the problem is actually the traffic clogging stoplights. So traffic experts propose an eight-kilometre string of free-flowing three- and two-lane roundabouts at major intersections, with a raised median to stop left-turn crashes. Only the Glamis/Robson intersection would keep a stoplight.
There were a few voices supporting roundabouts. Walter Ferguson wanted another added, at McLaren Avenue, to give better access to his storage business, nearby factories and a big Shoppers Drug Mart proposed at Dundas Street and McLaren.
Most people at the meeting, however doubted roundabouts could handle the crushing traffic.
There was a general concern motorists don't know how to drive the roundabouts built in recent years; they feared carnage as lead-footed motorists pushed through 11 in a row.
Others complained roundabouts would eat up far more land than simply widening the road. Homeowners at Champlain wanted to keep a stoplight, so they could safely back out of their driveways and save their front lawns.
A Mill Creek Road resident feared a Clyde Road roundabout would only force more speeding cars down the side street. She asked her road be closed at Franklin for safety.
Afonso Albuquerque lives along Franklin Boulevard and has little faith in the planning process. From the first public meeting two years ago, staff have pushed roundabouts.
"Why are we still hashing this over?" he asked. "Why aren't there any alternatives?"
Regional staff will take comments on the proposal until the end of the month. Contact project manager William Gilbert at 519-575-4603 or email@example.com.
Cambridge council gets roundabout reassurances
January 05, 2010
By Kevin Swayze, Record staff
CAMBRIDGE — Building 11 big roundabouts along busy Franklin Boulevard would cost $12 million more than widening the busy highway, but it would save millions more in health care costs because of fewer serious collisions, a traffic experts says.
“It’s the societal benefit,” said Bill Gilbert, the Waterloo Region road engineer overseeing the Franklin Boulevard upgrade study.
“It’s injury cost reduction, there’s less severity... it’s significantly better.”
He presented the final staff recommendation to Monday night’s Cambridge council meeting as a courtesy. Regional council considers the plan later this month. If approved, work wouldn’t start until 2013 and would take at least three years to complete.
City councillors repeated fears heard over and over again at two public information sessions held in 2008 and 2009: drivers don’t know how to use roundabouts safely; trucks will have trouble using them; and they fear carnage as students cross the three-lane Saginaw-Elgin roundabout proposed in front of St. Benedict Catholic secondary school.
To handle growing traffic along eight kilometres of Franklin between Pinebush and Myers roads, Gilbert said it came down to two options:
widen Franklin from four lanes to six lanes with monster intersections like those along Hespeler Road, at a cost of around $43 million
use big roundabouts to keep traffic moving along a four-lane road, divided with a median that allows safe U-turns, at a cost approaching $55 million. Only the stoplight at the Glamis-Robson intersection would be kept, to throttle the flow of traffic and to reduce property acquisition costs
Coun. Gary Price didn’t swallow the region’s traffic accident statistics, saying there has only been one pedestrian hurt in the 12 roundabouts across the region. None of them are likely to be jammed with pedestrians, like in front of St. Benedict.
“I have real concerns . . . that’s the only real roundabout concern I have on Franklin Boulevard.”
In Europe, the U.S. and Australia, roundabouts have proven far safer for pedestrians than stoplights, Gilbert said.
Pedestrians have only one direction of traffic to watch for and they only have to cross a few lanes of traffic at a time. Traffic is moving slower so any injuries are less severe.
A big roundabout in front of a University of Michigan campus works well, he said.
Coun. Ben Tucci asked about the possibility of building a pedestrian bridge over the Saginaw/Elgin roundabout, to give students a safe crossing.
Gilbert said the idea was discarded, because students won’t use it. They don’t use an elevated crossing of University Avenue in Waterloo; they often jaywalk underneath it.
Talk of adding a landscaped median down the middle of Franklin Boulevard was good news for Mayor Doug Craig.
Even the few trees added four years ago down the middle of Hespeler Road near Can-Amera Parkway have prompted positive public comments.
“I don’t want concrete all the way down (Franklin),” Craig said.
“If it’s going to be as wide as I think it will be, they should put grass in the median, trees down the middle. This could be a template for the rest of the region.”
01-27-2010, 11:30 AM
Politicians delay Franklin roundabout proposal
January 26, 2010
By Jeff Outhit, Record staff
CAMBRIDGE — Regional councillors like roundabouts but want more time to ponder a proposed $53-million makeover of Franklin Boulevard.
They have delayed until March a proposal to fill the busy road with 11 roundabouts.
On Tuesday, councillors asked staff to provide more details on property impacts, sidewalks, medians, construction costs and staging, and roundabout conversions of other major roads.
“Eleven roundabouts in eight kilometres. Is that a bit much?” said Coun. Sean Strickland, of Waterloo. “I know (roundabouts) are a good thing but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.”
Planners propose to install roundabouts up and down the four-lane road starting in 2013, to handle growing traffic.
It’s pitched as an alternative to widening the road to six lanes and expanding intersections that have traffic lights. This option, cheaper by almost $7 million to build, would turn Franklin into a version of busy Hespeler Road.
Councillors intend to meet behind closed doors to consider multiple properties that may have to be purchased to make way for roundabouts. This includes a hair salon that may be displaced at the Dundas Street intersection.
Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig requested the delay. “I’m a strong believer in roundabouts,” he said, saying he considers them safer for pedestrians.
Critics told councillors that roundabouts would cost too much, damage businesses at intersections, baffle drivers and threaten pedestrians, in particular students at St. Benedict High School.
Resident Kathleen Cook called roundabouts an unpopular option and said they would be “a step backward.” Richard Porter complained that they bother seniors and that he nearly had a collision in a roundabout.
“I think the roundabout plan is more of an experiment,” said Mike Gorski. He would lose some commercial property he owns at Elgin Street North.
Rudy Kuret complained that his hair salon would be demolished and he does not have an alternate site. “I’m really concerned about putting a business out of business where they have been very successful,” said Coun. Jane Brewer, of Cambridge.
There are 13 roundabouts on major commuter roads today and four more are coming in 2011. Other circles are being built on smaller, local roads.
01-30-2010, 09:05 AM
Jeff always seems to surprise me
Franklin roundabout plan still makes sense
January 30, 2010
Road Ahead column by Jeff Outhit
Dear regional councillor:
It’s OK to pause until March, before endorsing 11 roundabouts up and down Franklin Boulevard in Cambridge.
This is a dramatic proposal, costing $53 million. When completed by 2016, it would convert a four-lane travel corridor into a commuter route unlike any other in Ontario.
This conversion would have a bigger impact than the five roundabouts you installed (with more to come) on Ira Needles Boulevard in Kitchener and Waterloo. Ira Needles was built with traffic circles. The public knows what to expect.
So take a deep breath. But really, nothing has changed. Filling Franklin with roundabouts still makes sense.
Critics have complained of high costs, business impacts, pedestrian safety and driver frustration.
Roundabouts need space. Acquiring this space helps explain why roundabouts cost at least $7 million more than widening Franklin to six lanes.
Businesses at busy intersections would be squeezed or stripped of parking spaces. Four properties would have to be purchased outright. A popular beauty salon would be displaced.
In Kitchener, council had to demolish a strip club and relocate an automotive garage to make way for the Bridgeport roundabout.
Impacts such as these stress owners and employees. They are costly and disruptive. They are hard choices, made for the public good. The way forward is to limit impacts through proper design, establish a fair process to take property, and compensate fairly.
Pedestrians will fare better with roundabouts, compared to widening the busy road.
Traffic circles reduce intersection speeds, shorten crossing distances by half, and compel drivers and pedestrians to pay attention. This improves safety more effectively than relying on traffic signals to guide pedestrians across monster intersections.
Drivers will no longer be able to catch a wave of green lights and cruise the road at top speed for long stretches. They will have to slow down and exercise their judgment repeatedly, in circle after circle. This will frustrate some motorists who like the comfort of driving on autopilot. But they will become better drivers for it.
If not roundabouts, what then?
Critics have suggested widening Franklin (to make it like hated Hespeler Road), adding traffic signals (unwarranted and ineffective), improving traffic signals (limited impact), doing nothing (the road is already overwhelmed), and diverting traffic to an east-side bypass route not yet built (an old proposal that’s gone nowhere).
So by all means, think it over. But now is not the time to lose your nerve.
Jeff Outhit can be reached at 519-895-5642 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, way to use the Doll House as an example! Bravo hahaha.
03-10-2010, 12:16 PM
Roundabouts approved on Franklin Boulevard in Cambridge
March 10, 2010
By Jeff Outhit, Record staff
CAMBRIDGE — Busy Franklin Boulevardwill be converted to a string of 11 roundabouts, at a cost of up to $53 million.
Waterloo regional councillors voted 13-0 Tuesday to install roundabouts as a way to handle traffic growth and improve safety, while keeping the road four lanes wide south of Highway 401. The alternative was to widen the congested road to six lanes and expand intersections with traffic lights.
Construction of the first circles could begin in 2013. The conversion would be phased in over several years.
Roundabouts have worked well elsewhere in the region and they will work well on Franklin Boulevard, Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig said. He expects the circles will reduce dangerous collisions that currently plague the road.
He warned that politicians will need to educate people about the traffic circles, and persuade some skeptical drivers to accept the change. “The main issue here is dealing with the whole concept of change,” Craig said.
Critics argued the roundabouts will frustrate drivers accustomed to using Franklin as a speedway. “The eight-kilometre corridor will only prove to be dangerous and chaotic,” Murdeen Kuret said.
Kuret predicts seniors will switch to Hespeler Road, to avoid roundabouts they don’t understand and can’t grasp. “Most of them have no interest in learning,” she said.
Her husband Rudy Kuret owns a beauty salon that will be displaced by a roundabout proposed at Franklin and Dundas Street. Councillors said they expect to negotiate the relocation of the business.
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