Regional councillors have asked staff to find a yet another compromise for a proposed road-widening and repair project on a portion of Sawmill Road and Northfield Drive in Conestogo. The issue isn’t whether or not the road should be fixed – of that there is no debate – but how to go about repairing the road in a way that appeases as many residents and community groups as possible.
Cyclists want Sawmill Road in particular widened to accommodate bike lanes, while residents want to preserve the area’s historic character and properties.
“What I’ve heard is outcry from the public that they will lose their front yards, along with a number of trees taken down, and five or possibly six properties that the region would have to buy and knock down” said Woolwich mayor and regional councillor Todd Cowan.
Another issue is the upwards of 50 to 60 parking spaces in the village that would need to be eliminated to accommodate the road-widening, including at the fire station.
“(The region) don’t want to expand the road any more than it is because there is not a lot of space along parts of that road.”
Cowan said there were “four or five” delegations at the meeting on Tuesday, including cyclists hoping to promote the safety aspects of installing bike lanes through the village by drawing upon the recent death of Waterloo cyclist Barrie Conrod, who was struck by an SUV and died in Wellesley Township almost a month ago.
Meeting Tuesday, councillors asked staff to develop a new report that considers the concerns of the cyclists.
Cowan added they were receptive to the idea of designating Flax Mill Drive as a bike path, and said he was open to the idea as long as the region was willing to cost-share the project on the township road.
“Compromise will be good for both sides,” he noted. “At this point we haven’t moved on it, we’re waiting for staff to come back so we can address the cyclist issue.
“They (cyclists) felt they weren’t being given a dedicated area.”
The Region of Waterloo is currently considering improvements to Sawmill Road from Musselman Crescent to the Conestogo Bridge, and on Northfield Drive from the south limits of the village to Country Spring Walk. A traffic study indicated that by 2024 the intersection of Northfield and Sawmill would operate at a “poor level of service.”
The original plan called for the road to be widened by 1.5 metres to accommodate cyclists and buggy traffic, the installation of left-turn lanes at the intersection of Northfield and Sawmill, the construction of a pedestrian refuge island, and enhanced boulevard landscaping, among others, totaling $5.2 million.
Following public consultation back in October at Conestogo Public School, and after reviewing public comments, the project team that was established to direct the planning of the improvements came back to council with the suggestion to abandon the widening of the road and to reconstruct Sawmill Road and Northfield Drive in its current configuration.
That modification would cost an estimated $2.5-million, or about half of the original project, and to be funded by the roads rehabilitation reserve fund.
Cowan said he expects a new report to come forward in about three weeks at the next committee meeting.