The sounds of progress on lakeshore

Lakeshore Drive realignment sees parking more than double from 210 spaces to 450

By John Devine

Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk! What’s that? Well, you might think it’s the sound of the American government grinding back to work, and you could be right. But in this case, it’s the sound of progress in Barrie – although not likely music to the ears of residents in near proximity to the noise.
Work is well underway on the long discussed realignment of Lakeshore Drive to the old rail bed, adjacent to the current road. The most obvious signs, and sounds, of the work is the pile driving that’s going on just across the road from the city marina, at Bunker’s Creek, preparing the ground for a bridge over the creek.
Work is expected to last until the third week of October, according to the City, but as it’s pushing into the third week and it looks like 15 or so of these large telephone-length poles await piling, it seems likely the noise will last longer than anticipated.
When completed, the work moves down the road to Dyment’s Creek, where the piling resumes to build a bridge for that watercourse. Both creeks have already been subject to work that improves creek flow, road grading for major storm surges, culvert extensions, and enhances fish habitats.
Current plans call for the entire project to be completed in 2016. It breaks down this way:
• 2013: Work on the two creeks.
• 2014: Moving Lakeshore Drive and reconstructing Victoria Street.
• 2015: Continued work on the new road, including street lighting and a top lift of asphalt. Plans call for traffic to be routed to the new road in 2015.
• 2016: Developing an open channel for Bunker’s Creek between the marina and Lakeshore Drive. Completing improvements to the north park of Centennial Park.
It’s estimated the realignment will cost $27 million, and is the final leg of a project that included connecting Toronto Street to Lakeshore, Simcoe Street to Bradford, and Lakeshore at Tiffin Street.
That’s a lot of work and money to move vehicles around. Is it worth it? Well, you can be the judge. Here’s what else you are getting for your money:
• Lakeshore will be moved to the old rail bed from Toronto Street to about 100 metres north of Tiffin Street. There’ll be new storm sewers, curb and gutter, a raised centre median and parking along the street.
• A sidewalk will be built from Toronto to Tiffin, on the west side.
• New traffic signals at Victoria and Lakeshore and between Dyment’s and Hotchkiss creeks.
• Improved lighting and landscaping along the road.
• At Centennial Park, the work is expected to provide better bench locations, create areas for events and recreational activities, and increase parking there from 210 to 450 spaces.
If you conclude that parking factors predominantly into these plans, you are not incorrect. The site plan shows three major parking areas to be located between the new road and the park/marina lands. If that is the major gain, taxpayers may well ask why move the road at all? Instead, why not create parking lots to the east side of the existing roadway?
The most significant changes to the park seem to be the improved Dyment Creek watercourse, which will flow naturally into the bay. But to call the plan a major expansion of public waterfront land, and access, seems a bit inflated, given the focus on traffic flow and parking needs.
And it doesn’t seem to address a major issue – namely, the amount of traffic that continues to use Lakeshore Drive, even as the four-lane Bradford Street remains relatively idle. Remember, Bradford was expanded to handle extra traffic, and the Lakeshore/Tiffin work was undertaken to prod traffic onto Bradford, and off of Lakeshore. It doesn’t seem to have work.
So, at the end of the day, are we to have a new Lakeshore with a continued heavy traffic load, and lots of new parking for all those out-of-towners dropping by to enjoy at day at Centennial, or one of the big events like Kempenfest?
And getting back to the ka-thunk of progress, the noise left me wondering if workers on the site should be the only ones wearing ear protectors. While at the marina taking a video of the sailboats being lifted out, my ears rang with each pile drive. What about the people enjoying the boardwalk, city employees at the marina, or the residents of nearby condos? It looks like that is just the price they have to pay for progress.
Click here for an information bulletin on the creek work.

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