BIG PLANS FOR BANWELL ROAD

Pro­posed im­prove­ments worth $50M

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN CROSS bcross@post­media.com

An “ab­so­lutely scary” bike ride along the gravel shoul­der on Banwell Road this week has prompted Coun. Irek Kus­mier­czyk to ramp up his cam­paign for a pro­posed $50-mil­lion project to im­prove the busy, un­lit ar­te­rial road.

A big por­tion of that hefty price tag is for a new $28-mil­lion in­ter­change at E.C. Row Ex­press­way to re­place the sig­nal­ized in­ter­sec­tion that has the most col­li­sions in the city.

An en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment was ap­proved by coun­cil in 2016 as a blue­print to solve the traf­fic woes on this road­way be­tween Te­cum­seh Road East and the CP rail­way tracks south of the ex­press­way. But for the last sev­eral months it has sat on the shelf, and is not in­cluded in the city’s five-year cap­i­tal fore­cast, Kus­mier­czyk said.

“Now we need to im­ple­ment it,” he said, re­port­ing that he con­tacted the mayor and the city en­gi­neer im­me­di­ately af­ter rid­ing his bike on Banwell, which has two lanes with gravel shoul­ders, ditches, no street lights and no side­walks.

“It was ab­so­lutely scary, be­cause it was pitch black and there were no mark­ings on the side of the road,” the Ward 7 coun­cil­lor said, re­call­ing how he’s of­ten seen young peo­ple walk­ing dan­ger­ously at night along the gravel shoul­der. Older peo­ple have con­tacted him com­plain­ing they can’t see when they’re driv­ing along Banwell at night, es­pe­cially when it’s rain­ing.

He said the road is get­ting in­creas­ingly busy be­cause it serves as the com­muter route for res­i­dents liv­ing in the “boom­ing ” East River­side and For­est Glade neigh­bour­hoods. A busy road with coun­try road con­di­tions cre­ates huge safety con­cerns, he said, call­ing the project a “need to have,” rather than a “like to have.”

Although he con­ceded it’s a “pricey project,” he ar­gued that “to me, it’s un­ac­cept­able we don’t even have ba­sic light­ing.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment calls for four-lan­ing of the road, with light­ing, a multi-use path as well as a side­walk, a new sig­nal­ized in­ter­sec­tion at Pal­metto Street and a round­about at the Wild­wood Drive/Mul­berry Drive in­ter­sec­tion. The round­about is cur­rently in the de­sign phase, the first step to­ward it be­com­ing a re­al­ity in the com­ing years. But the en­tire project, par­tic­u­larly the in­ter­change at E.C. Row, is a “very, very ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion,” said city en­gi­neer Mark Win­ter­ton, who said the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion on what projects to put high on the pri­or­ity list rests with city coun­cil.

“Would I love to build it? You bet. But it has to be weighed with the pri­or­i­ties of the city and our abil­ity to pay for stuff like that, and that’s a very ex­pen­sive piece of in­fra­struc­ture.”

The city spends roughly $8 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion an­nu­ally on fix­ing de­fi­cient roads and $10 mil­lion to $12 mil­lion im­prov­ing ca­pac­ity by ex­pand­ing or build­ing new roads. The $28-mil­lion Banwell/E.C. Row in­ter­change would ex­ceed one year’s en­tire bud­get Win­ter­ton said. “That’s how big a project that would be for us.”

Win­ter­ton said the Banwell project would only hap­pen with help from the pro­vin­cial or fed­eral govern­ment.

Kus­mier­czyk agreed that up­per­level fund­ing is cru­cial. “But with the in­fra­struc­ture funds that are there right now, from the fed­eral govern­ment stim­u­lus pro­gram, this is the time to go af­ter it.”

He said he’s also aware that there are other big projects the Banwell project will be com­pet­ing with, cit­ing the plan to ex­pand Lau­zon Park­way and the Cen­tral Box project to im­prove traf­fic around Do­min­ion Boule­vard and Dougall Av­enue in South Wind­sor.

“But in the east end, the pace of in­fra­struc­ture should go hand in hand with the pace of de­vel­op­ment, and we know East River­side is boom­ing right now.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment pre­dicts that traf­fic vol­umes on Banwell will “more than dou­ble” in the fu­ture as the sur­round­ing area is de­vel­oped and growth con­tin­ues in the east side of the city and Te­cum­seh.

The Banwell/E.C. Row in­ter­sec­tion has the most col­li­sions in the city, and most of them — 79 per cent — are rear-en­ders. Else­where in the city, rear-end col­li­sions make up just 33 per cent of crashes at sig­nal­ized in­ter­sec­tions.

“Most of the rear-end col­li­sions are likely as a re­sult of con­ges­tion caus­ing un­ex­pected slow­downs, long queues and in­creased driver frus­tra­tion,” the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment says. It adds that only mi­nor im­prove­ments can be made to the ex­ist­ing in­ter­sec­tion be­cause of high traf­fic vol­umes and there be­ing no room to ex­pand.

The in­ter­sec­tion has the city’s fourth-high­est fre­quency of col­li­sions, at 1.34 per mil­lion en­ter­ing ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to data from 2009 to 2013. The city av­er­age at sig­nal­ized in­ter­sec­tions is 0.48 col­li­sions. Dur­ing that time pe­riod, 96 mil­lion ve­hi­cles went through the in­ter­sec­tion.

Banwell is one of the few sig­nal­ized in­ter­sec­tions on the ex­press­way within city lim­its, the oth­ers be­ing where it ends at Ojib­way Park­way. Be­yond city lim­its, the ex­press­way turns into County Road 20.

Win­ter­ton said when it comes to road needs in the city, it would cost about $300 mil­lion to fix de­fi­cient roads and a few hun­dred mil­lion more to make ca­pac­ity im­prove­ments like the Banwell Road, the River­side Vista project, Ca­bana Road ex­pan­sion and Walker Road im­prove­ments.

“So all of a sud­den, you’re ap­proach­ing $1 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture needs, so it all has to be weighed and we get about $25 mil­lion in a given year.”

With the in­fra­struc­ture funds that are there right now, from the fed­eral govern­ment stim­u­lus pro­gram, this is the time to go af­ter it.

NICK BRANCACCIO

Ward 7 Coun. Irek Kus­mier­czyk walks along the side of Banwell Road Fri­day where there are no side­walks or street lights. Kus­mier­czyk is push­ing for nearly $50-mil­lion in im­prove­ments for Banwell Road.

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