Beacon Avenue two-way debate deferred again

Sidney council pushes discussion on the issue into the fall

Sidney’s Beacon Avenue remains at the centre of a traffic flow debate.

Beacon Avenue will remain a split one-way and two-way street at least another few months, after council rejected a plan to start consulting with the community over the benefits — or hinderances — of changing the direction of traffic.

It is the second such delay of any discussion between council and the public pertaining to changing Beacon’s one-way status between Fifth and First streets to a full two-way configuration.

In a report from town staff, council had voted on April 8 to delay any further consultation of its Downtown Traffic movement Study “pending the impact of the Business Improvement Area, completion of the Fifth Street and Ocean Avenue roundabout … and completion of the 2013 street market.” The report indicates the roundabout is done, the BIA is in place and the street market is half-way through its season.

Not good enough, says Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, who has been at the fore of votes to delay any further public consultation on the traffic study.

“Council agreed not to do anything further until the end of the market season, the signage issue is complete and the roundabout is done,” he said.

Council is currently consulting with the public and business community on proposed changes to the municipal sign bylaw. That, however, was not originally a reason cited by council in this case.

Lougher-Goodey added he’s not heard of any public appetite for changing the current traffic flow on Beacon. He referred to recent letters to the editor in the News Review that have been asking for change, but noted they originate from a single source. Local hotelier Denis Paquette has led the charge in recent months among local business owners who want Beacon reverted back to a two-way flow, like it was more than a decade ago. Paquette formed the group STIG — Sidney Traffic Improvement Group — to further that agenda.

Lougher-Goodey went so far as to raise the bugaboo of provincial plans to change the Beacon and Highway 17 interchange — plans that have been around for years in what is essentially a discussion paper.

Coun. Steve Price said such plans would impact Sidney’s entire traffic system, if and when they occur.

“It would be a shame for this council to undo previous councils’ work,” he said, “and then, a new council could be faced with changing the work of this council.”

Coun. Melissa Hailey said she didn’t want to simply reject plans for public consultation, indicating she thinks the community is split on the issue. She added if some groups are all for two-way flow, they might want to consider paying for it themselves.

“That would only work if the rest of the community is OK with changing (Beacon) to two-way,” said Mayor Larry Cross.

Town staff have estimated the initial cost of changing the traffic flow to be around $165,000 and would include removing one-way signs, line painting, reconstruction of sidewalk bump-outs and modifying the street lights at Fifth Street to facilitate east-bound traffic. Extra costs would be incurred in promoting the consultation process.

Instead, council voted unanimously to postpone further debate to its strategic planning sessions in October.