By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff
A portion of Manitou Drive will get a third lane after all.
After asking for more information when they last considered the matter in September, regional councillors seemed unsure why they hadn’t simply approved the widening of the road in the first place.
The project, which will see the addition of a centre left-turn lane between Fairway Road and the bridge over Schneider Creek as well as cycling lanes and sidewalks from Fairway to Bleams Road, was unanimously approved by councillors Tuesday.
“For far too long we’ve had dirt trails in the grass along the side on Manitou. Trying to walk is really difficult in that area,” said Kitchener Coun. Jean Haalboom.
Councillors had previously questioned whether the centre lane would be enough to ameliorate the lengthy traffic delays currently seen on Manitou, or if a four-lane road would be a better alternative.
They were told most of the delays come from vehicles turning left into businesses on Manitou. On a four-lane road, those vehicles would still block traffic.
“You can get situations where when the vehicle stops to turn left, that vehicle blocks traffic,” said Steve van de Keere, a regional transportation engineer.
A four-lane road would also cost an extra $5.5 million, councillors were told. Additionally, there would not be enough room to fit sidewalks and cycling lanes, necessitating dark tunnels to carry pedestrians through hills along Manitou.
Construction of the project, which will include a roundabout at the intersection of Manitou, Bleams and the proposed River Road extension, is scheduled for 2015.
Councillors also heard from Duncan Class, a Doon resident who is in favour of the proposal but said he hoped it would be only the first step in adding more cycling lanes and sidewalks in the area.
“Do the right and honourable thing. Connect the Doon area to the City of Kitchener,” he said.
Plans currently on the books call for sidewalks to be connected along Manitou from Bleams to Homer Watson Boulevard in 2016, but Class called for the timetable to be moved up, noting that sidewalks currently end at Wabanaki Drive and the former Kitchener Frame plant.
“These policies were put in place so that the industries don’t have to shovel the sidewalks,” he said.
“I think they should learn to shovel.”
Also questioned was a centre median at Webster Drive. Van de Keere said blocking left turns at Webster would reduce the number of crashes on Manitou, and a physical barrier is necessary to enforce the ban.
“It’s safer for pedestrians and for motorists. If there’s no physical median in the road, drivers will find their way around,” he said.