Millroy: Not The Best Practice To Follow

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In regard to the massive blunder that occurred when line painters from Guelph changed the traffic pattern at Albert and East Streets back in 2015 and city officials endorsed the mistake, there might now be light at the end of the tunnel.

Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm White told me in an email that the way the lane configuration changed “is not the best practice to follow” and says there is agreement a further review is necessary.

This, of course, is welcome news to me after six years of railing about the changes made by the line painters from Guelph who, instead of following the lines that had been there for about 50 year, totally went off script.

Where two lanes from Albert used to flow up East Street to Wellington East, with easy split-offs to Wellington West and south on East, we ended up with the south lane on Albert becoming the only lane to carry traffic from Albert to Wellington East. The north lane on Albert became a U-turn onto Wellington West.

The whole thing defied logic.
As the issue moved to the backburner over the past few years, I thought last summer that I would take one more shot at it by putting the question, accompanied by drawings, to Ward 2 Councillors Luc Dufour and Lisa Vezeau-Allen. I never heard back from either of them.

So as a last resort I thought I would try White, whose opinion I value. On the record or off the record, I didn’t care. I just wanted his take on the intersection.

So as I detailed in a column in March, I asked White in September 2020, for his thoughts on the intersection and sent along drawings as to how it had been, how it now was and the information, which I considered to be flawed, the city had provided the traffic expert it had approached for advice.

On Sept. 30 White acknowledged he had received my email and said he would get back to me. After a nudge I gave him on Nov. 23 he said again he would get back to me. It was the last I heard until after my column in March, in which I indicated I now suspected why he didn’t get back to me.

His character wouldn’t allow him to tell a lie, I said. If he agreed with the configuration as it is now, he would have said so.

His silence told me he didn’t support the configuration but didn’t want to say so because it would be going against staff.

In now answering my question White said:

“There is no question that the way the lane configuration changed (an operational decision during line painting) is not the best practice to follow, albeit operational pressures sometimes force issues. Our staff have reviewed the current configuration with CIMA, our 3rd party traffic consultants. We agree that further review is necessary, which may result in recommendations to change the lane configuration and may include recommendations to revise the physical layout of the two intersections involved.”

I asked him about the operational decision. He said:
“Concerning the operational decision – whether it was the line painting contractor alone or if there was any input from operational city staff, best practice in my view is that any deviation from previous alignments should only be done with recommendations by professional expertise.”

As I already knew from my reporting, there was no input from city staff. It was all done by the line painters. I got that information through a Freedom of Information request in June 2016.

I don’t see any need for physical changes to the layout of the intersection. Just give us the old lanes back please.

I began writing about this matter in January of 2016 and, leading up to a column in June of that year, in which I reported how the line-painting contractor screwed up, I began copying Mayor Christian Provenzano with all of my correspondence with officials in public works and transit.

As a result he met with officials in the department and later invited me to discuss the matter.
“I get it: I drive it too,” Provenzano said about travelling Albert to its intersection with East. “It was easier before; the way we did it for 40 years”

He said the first time his wife came home from work after the lines had been changed at Albert and East she said she didn’t know what they did on the street but “it didn’t make any sense.”

But the mayor, throwing a worry about liability into the mix, said he would not direct that the lines be changed back to the way they were but he would not be surprised if something came from council asking for an explanation about how it all came to pass.
Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker, who travelled the route daily and described it as “crazy,” said at the time he thought “it is way more dangerous the way the lines currently are than the way they were before. Plus, everyone still treats the lines like they used to be painted, which makes the situation twice as dangerous.”

He said his personal opinion was that the liability risk would be greater the way it currently is than it would be to go back to the way it was.

However, while he supported putting the lines back the way they were, he said from the feedback he had gotten from his colleagues he believed it would be futile to bring forward such a motion. CIMA endorsed the line changes but it was working on flawed information, from a drawing that cut off at the medical building on East Street, therefore not showing the interaction with Wellington East.

Being part of this review I would hope CIMA gets a much better look at what is really going on at the intersection, actually putting eyes on it rather than working from a drawing as it did previously. I think this is the least we should expect since CIMA is on retainer now, where it received only $1,700 for the advice the city sought when this issue first surfaced.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The Albert St. E intersection that Doug is talking about has to be the most confusing intersection in our city. If I turn left to go north and then east on Wellington I must change lanes when the road goes from 3 lanes down to 2. Several times I have almost had an accident because a driver following me wants to change lanes before I do—even when I signal my lane change.
    I don’t pretend to know the solution to the problem but some changes are needed.

  2. I notice a sign-up at the NEW lights near Walmart. They are going into effect on June 1st..WHY? There is only one building in that new proposed plaza and it is the Royal Bank and it does not appear to be finished or ready for opening anytime soon. Surely those lights which will be a major headache can wait a little bit longer??

  3. Mr. Millroy, you’re an step closer to the Transit Warrior nomination.
    It’s always good to see the light at the end of the tunnel… mostly when you’re the one inside the tunnel.
    Your next assignment should be Great Northern Road and Second Line intersection and how many hours and litres of gas are lost daily waiting for the green.

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