Many residents of Montgomery Place have reached out to share feedback, questions and concerns about the implications of the Circle Drive West Functional Planning Study proposal on access into the neighbourhood via the 11th Street exit. Thank you to all who have reached out. I am working diligently to respond to everyone. This long term project is really important and I’m committed to working with you to make sure we get it right.
There is a lot of background on this highly complex file, so I apologize in advance for the long post. I hope to clarify a few things below and lay out for you some of what I plan to do as your Councillor to try to have our concerns addressed. I will also address the question of engagement. I’ve made a video (~15mins) that summarizes the content below and shows some of it visually. If you prefer to watch the video, I encourage that. It’s here. Whether you read what’s below or watch the video (or both!) I am keen on your feedback and hope to hear from you before the meeting in September with feedback and any additional questions. Please email me at [email protected]
First, a bit of a process update:
The Functional Plan for Circle Drive West will be presented to the Transportation Committee of City Council in September (it had previously been planned for August). This will take place September 6th at 2pm. This is a first step before it is presented to City Council later that month (September 26th at 1pm). The map of the Functional Plan that will be presented is here. This map is admittedly quite difficult to ‘read’ when reviewing without an explanation, so if you’d like to have a walk through of the full thing, I encourage you to review the recording and/or presentation from the Engagement Open House #3 held virtually in October. The links can be found on the project page under ‘Engagement’. I won’t walk through the full thing and will instead focus only on 11th street below.
Based on the feedback I’ve received and my best assessment of a way forward that is beneficial to Montgomery, my intention at this time (I remain open to feedback and hope to receive yours!) is to achieve Council support to pair-up the West Circle Drive project with the 11th Street overpass project. My goal would be to ensure that the Circle Drive West reconfiguration, including the reconfiguration of the 11th Street exit doesn’t proceed without an 11th Street overpass also being constructed. All things considered, I think this is a very strong path forward and presents a huge opportunity to build momentum behind the complete solution to rail delays and related safety issues that residents in Montomery have been calling on the City to address for decades. I’ll expand on this below. For more context about what we are doing and can do in the meantime about rail delays and safety I’ve included additional info at the bottom of this message.
The Functional Plan for Circle Drive West is a long term plan for the future of Circle West (likely not to be constructed for 20 years or potentially more). The main goal of the project is to establish free-flowing traffic (eliminate existing traffic lights) while maintaining as many of the existing movements (entrances/exits) on and off Circle Drive as possible. The original scope of the study did not extend as far south as 11th Street West. This intersection became implicated when the plan to keep an exit from Clancy stretched too far south and got too close to the existing 11th Street exit. These two movements taking place so close to one another create safety issues. For a comparable example, think of the proximity of the entrance and exit on Hwy 11 @ Hwy 16 when re-entering the City from the south. The ‘weaving distance’ here is tight and too close. It causes lots of confusion and safety issues. The City has developed a plan to reconfigure this intersection in the medium-long term. So, given that the removal of the lights at Clancy was the core goal of the project, and therefore an exit ramp/lane from Clancy was a requirement of the project, it was then determined that a new configuration for the 11th Street exit would need to be considered in order to accommodate the Clancy ramp.
The project began (without 11th St) with engagement in June of 2019. I won’t go through the various drafts of the plan and changes to the plan through the process for the full stretch of Circle Drive West, but will instead share all of the detail I have about 11th Street exit. Further background about the full project can be found on the project page.
11th Street West Exit proposal:
The proposal to reconfigure the exit onto 11th Street is to have it to have Southbound drivers pass 11th Street, and exit to the West turning back to arrive at 11th Street from the South – see screenshot of this area from the full plan here or review the video starting at 3min30). After exiting, drivers would then be at a signalized intersection and would turn left onto 11th Street to head West (or right to head East).
This change will have two major impacts.
- Drivers headed East will have a much easier time getting where they’re going as they will now not cross any rail tracks. They will not risk facing rail delays.
- Drivers going West (such as into Montgomery) would still face rail delays, but at a different crossing. With the reconfigured exit, westbound drivers would cross three lines at the same crossing.
Due to the increased number of lines to cross heading west, I was quite sure that this would increase the risk of, and length of rail delays for residents accessing Montgomery or other points West since coming West on 11th from east of Dundonald involves crossing more rail lines. I inquired about this some months ago having discussed this with neighbours in the area and requested rail traffic data (which was collected during the rail relocation study a couple years ago). Unfortunately, this information was not presented at the 3rd open house, but has since been added to the project page under the FAQ at my request – skip to the ‘11th St Access’ section. It confirms that there are approximately twice as many train blockages at 11th street, and that the duration of those blockages is, on average, 1:47 longer than those at the existing exit (referred to as the Dundonald ramp).
I am not satisfied with this outcome and am hearing that you and others are not either.
So, my intention is the following:
- Get the pair the 11th Street overpass project with the Circle Drive West project. I have engaged the Transportation department, who do not oppose this. It has been confirmed that the two projects do not conflict and can be complimentary. There’s some background about that overpass project in the FAQ as well, but I’ll share some info here too. Pairing these projects will require support from my Council colleagues.
- Here’s a copy of the high level idea that we have at this point for the 11th overpass. As you’ll see, constructing that overpass was going to require reconfiguring the 11th Street exit in the same way that is proposed above, but with an overpass over rail, those delay concerns would be eliminated. Constructing this overpass along with the other changes along circle drive west could be the end of Rail delays for residents in Montgomery Place, and for future residents in neighbourhoods that may be constructed to the west in the distant future. I explain the two projects side by side in the video at 08min25.
- Finally, I intend to explore whether there might be more elegant designs for that overpass that we could explore. The one I’ve linked above has been adopted in principle only and was developed as a concept to be redeveloped closer to construction. I think exploring more options sooner would help us to make sure these projects will really have the benefit we want and will help to reduce some of the downsides of an overpass. Overpasses raise traffic in the air, and also require land for ramps and more. Taking some time to design this one as well as possible could reduce some of those impacts.
I’m keen to hear your feedback about this proposal and invite you to email me at [email protected] As I mentioned, I put together a video explaining some of this too in case your head is spinning like mine was the first few times I looked through these plans.
Finally, I have had many calls to halt the consideration of this project until more consultation could take place with Montgomery residents. I appreciate that this information is new to many and I am not intending to rush anything. We have time to get this right and I am committed to doing so. I cannot, however single-handedly halt the project. Committee could consider this call in September.
As background, the project was initially planned to have two open house engagement sessions. Back in 2020, former Coun. Iwanchuk and I petitioned Council to support funding a third open house. I made sure that Montgomery Place residents would get flyers for it. Those went out in October of 2020 ahead of the meeting a couple weeks later. It has recently been pointed out to me that the flyers described the project scope in a way that did not make it obvious that the project was relevant to Montgomery. This is definitely a concern and likely resulted in fewer residents attending the 3rd open house than would have if it had been clearer. The meeting was held virtually so I was unable to survey how many people from Montgomery Place were present. Other tools, such as through my monthly newsletter, and the Community Association newsletter were utilized to share about the project as well. All of this to say, I am very committed to engagement and have made efforts to ensure opportunities were sufficient. I understand that many people were not aware of the implications or relevance of the project to the Montgomery Place neighbourhood, and do understand that some of how the project was referred to in some communications was not as clear as it could have been. At this stage, only the Transportation committee or Council could direct new engagement. I do not have such authority.
At this time, I am interested in making sure everyone has all the information they can have and that all questions are answered. I hope that this email has helped. The presentation of this plan to the Transportation committee has been delayed to September to allow more time for questions and feedback. I am keen on your feedback. The project team is too. If you have more technical questions and want to email the project team you can reach them at: [email protected]
Current rail delay and safety concern efforts:
Recent ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) projects have been installed to mitigate some of the risk associated with emergency service access being cut off when the rail crossings are blocked. The project provides the Fire Department real time information about when the crossing at 11th Street is blocked allowing dispatchers to more efficiently and effectively direct trucks to respond in Montgomery Place and better ensure timely response. This will not mitigate the situation wherein both access routes into the neighbourhood are blocked. Fortunately, this is uncommon, and in a major response, or a ‘two-alarm fire’ they will send trucks each route to ensure at least one is unlikely to be delayed. I also believe that there are improvements to rail operations that could further reduce the situation where both entrances are blocked, and am working to push for this. All of this said, I understand that many feel that the issue is not fully addressed until a physical solution is in place (over/under pass or rail moved). This is why I initiated including the 11th Street overpass on the Transportation Infrastructure List for future consideration/funding/construction.
For interest, the ITS system bleeds over into public access and convenience as well. You’ve likely noticed the signage on roads leading up to that intersection warning drivers when the intersection is blocked by a train in hopes that alternative routes can be chosen. There is also work happening to consider whether a broader public communications tie-in might be feasible - I don't have any detail to provide on that at this stage. At last budget, there was a project that wasn’t going to be funded to continue the ITS work on rail safety. I asked the fire department to come to budget to speak to the importance of this work and I moved a motion to add the item to the list of funded projects. It was successfully funded. I remain committed to incremental improvement like this before a full solution can be achieved in the future.
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