MORRISBURG – Much like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, Morrisburg has long been searching for its heart since the Seaway drowned the historic downtown.
With the unveiling of the new street-scape plan, county and municipal officials hope to reimagine County Road 2 into a Main Street and return something that was lost; the heart of a village.
Counties officials, staff and councillors from South Dundas and Robinson Consultants unveiled the most complete street-scape plans to date Thurs., March 7.
The present plan is the culmination of three years of work that began with the Village of Morrisburg Vehicle/Pedestrian Review study in 2016 and included the Morrisburg Streetscape – Landscape Improvement Plan, as well as the first impressions report. All of that research pointed to the same conclusion, Morrisburg did not have a Main Street.
It was those findings that provided key information as the counties planned the reconstruction of County Road 2, according to director of transportation and planning services, Ben de Haan.
“We want to work together. If the municipality is going ahead and doing something with street-scaping and we come along five years later and dig it all up because we’re doing a roadway, it makes no sense for anybody. That’s really what led to this,” he said.
De Haan noted that the design aims to “create a solution that satisfies all of those things that need to be satisfied.”
The redesign of the thoroughfare makes several significant changes. Pedestrian accessibility is a focal point in the design and includes sidewalks on both sides of the street with multiple pedestrian crossovers in designated areas identified by signs, pavement markings and activated flashing beacons. Cyclist or multi-use pathways are also still being considered.
Entrances to commercial areas will be upgraded to SD&G standards, which will further enhance pedestrian safety.
Upgraded corridor street lighting, which can be used for banners and seasonal decoration, will provide enhanced pedestrian illumination and “create symmetry and rhythm in keeping with community character.”
The largest change will be the roundabout that replaces the standard traffic light intersection. This will not only create a welcoming atmosphere, or a gateway to the village that leaves an impression with visitors, it will also serve as a traffic calming measure and safety feature.
A roundabout reduces the severity of collisions, there are fewer conflict points, and head-on and T-bone collisions are completely eliminated.
This traffic feature will be able to handle 1,400 vehicles per hour compared to 900 vehicles per hour at a traditional lighted intersection. It also has a lower operating cost and doesn’t require power to operate.
South Dundas CAO Shannon Geraghty was pleased by the attendance and that people were getting involved in the process.
“I thought the numbers would be lower and I’m glad to see a lot more people came out. It just shows the public is engaged with these types of activities. We’re looking forward to all their comments,” he said. “If we need to make improvements, we will. This is a draft concept plan.”
Economic development officer Rob Hunter, who spearheaded much of this work for South Dundas, echoed those thoughts.
“It’s been very positive. People like it. Some of them want it now,” he said. “That’s positive too that people would like to see it and see it as soon as possible. We’ll try to do that.”
The plans were readily available for closer inspection on large placards, as well as in a 3-D video presentation and staff answered questions for the entire evening.
Positive feedback and the increase in attendance were both encouraging for Robert Cotnam, project manager with Robinson Consultants.
“People have some concerns with some elements, but conceptually they’re all for it,” he said.
Mayor Steven Byvelds hoped that all users of the road shared their input.
“As a truck driver, I wanted to make sure it worked for a lot of truck traffic. I’m hoping those who are in that business look at it and if they have any concerns, now is the time to voice them,” he said.
Byvelds found the new design more functional.
“What I like about it is they’ve taken away the grass median and the trees. That kind of non-functional stuff gets in the road. It’s still a road. You’ve got to recognize that.
It’s our main thoroughfare,” he said.
De Haan believed that having something tangible to show the public was a watershed moment for many.
“I think part of that is that the community has been waiting for this. My sense is they’re happy to finally see some of that dream or vision put on paper and being that much closer to being realized,” he said.
While people voiced numerous concerns, including the placement of crossovers, concrete medians and the width of the roads, this project is about making something whole again.
“The hope is to kind of bring something back that was lost when the Seaway flooded the original downtown. You’ve got a highway as a Main Street,” said Hunter. “There’s nothing distinctive or attractive that makes people say, ‘I should stop here.’ I think this is going to go a long way to creating that distinctiveness.”
For De Haan, this project is about more than just building a new road.
“Let’s try and create some semblance of a Main Street where people feel comfortable to be, to walk, to bike, to sit down and have lunch under a tree. That’s what we’re trying to create here,” he said.
De Haan pointed out that the roundabout in Iroquois and the work in Long Sault have transformed a once problematic, busy road in those villages.
“County Road 2 in that community was identified as a barrier to the waterfront. Because who wants to race across six lanes of traffic?” he asked.
The designs are posted on the South Dundas website and Byvelds encouraged the public to provide feedback for the next week.
“This is the plan that has been presented, give us your ideas and thoughts. Then if there are major concerns this is the time to address them and change them,” he said. “This is what council wanted in their term. We’re not here to dictate.”
It is hoped that the project is finalized and ready to apply for provincial and federal funding as early as this year and be ready to break ground by 2021.
Although early estimates put the project at $1.5 to $2-million to complete, Geraghty felt the time was right for Morrisburg to create a new downtown.
“It’s time we started creating an identity here. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about it,” he said.
Cotnam, perhaps the person closest to the project, summarized it best.
“I think the real benefit as a whole is a redefinition of County Road 2 through the town. It’s going to give it a sense of place. It’s no longer just a thoroughfare. It’s a place,” he said.
Below is a Robinson Consultants curated video laying out the entirety of street-scape plan: