Traffic along Sidney’s Beacon Avenue is not going to change.
Ending a long public consultation process, town council voted Monday to maintain the current mixed traffic direction on the downtown street.
Approximately a year ago, a study of local streets and traffic patterns contracted by the municipality, suggested more work be put into whether Beacon should maintain its mixed one-and-two-way flows or be made into a full two-way street as it was prior to 1997.
Beacon Avenue is two-way from the highway to Fifth Street. It becomes one-way heading east from Fifth to Second streets before returning to a two-way route again to the east of First Street.
A group of business owners, led by Denis Paquette, formed the Sidney Traffic (later changed to Tourism) Improvement Group (STIG) and started the conversation on changing the street back to a two-way pattern.
STIG claimed such a move would make the downtown more accessible to visitors and in general improve businesses’ economic fortunes. By the time the Town held a public open house on the matter in January, STIG spokesperson Steve Duck indicated the group did not expect the Town to pursue change at this time.
Surveys from the open house seem to back that up. Seventy per cent of all respondents (1,380 in all) to the survey stated they wanted Beacon Avenue to remain as-is. This result led council on Monday night to put an end to the matter for now.
Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey had led the vote last year to shelve discussion on Beacon Avenue. He said Monday night he was disappointed there wasn’t a crowd on hand to talk more about the issue.
“It was a long process,” he said. “As a councillor, I spoke with people from the previous administration about their reasons for making it one-way.”
Lougher-Goodey said he asked himself, what has changed?
Issues of trucks being able to load and unload without disrupting traffic were top of mind, said Lougher-Goodey. He noted that making Beacon fully two way would have meant no left turns and fewer parking spots, not to mention “the minor inconvenience of cost.”
Town estimates placed turning the three-block section of one-way street into two-way would have cost around $250,000.
Lougher-Goodey, despite his overall opposition to changing Beacon’s traffic flow, noted that 21 per cent of business owners stated in the survey they strongly oppose Beacon remaining a one-way street in those three blocks. Lougher-Goodey said with nearly one-third of local businesses opposed to that, he thinks it will still be an issue in years to come.
Coun. Steve Price said this extra public consultation effectively delayed other street work the Town had planned.
“It may cost us time to do those street improvements for the business people in Town,” Price said. “We’ve set ourselves back a long way in promoting our own town.”
Mayor Larry Cross said he was pleased the question of Beacon Avenue traffic went to the public.
“There are issues,” he said, “and we don’t want to minimize those concerns.”
One of those, he continued, is the use of two ‘Do Not Enter’ signs that some business owners feel is directing people away from the downtown core.
Council voted not to take further action on traffic change on Beacon and vowed to use the survey results in any discussion regarding planning in the downtown and waterfront area.