The plans for Destination Reeves Street involve many different aspects. I agree with almost all of them, including the facade program, the reduction of entrances/exits along the street, the Active Transportation Link to the NSCC and beautification initiatives.
The one aspect which I cannot agree with is reducing the street to three lanes. My concerns respecting the three lanes continue to be based on the type of traffic that we have.
When Destination Reeves Street was in development, I understand that Destination Reeves Street Committee members spoke, and in some cases met, with representatives from several communities, including Shediac and Moncton, New Brunswick, and New Minas. From these discussions, they were assured that road diets can work.
The difference between Port Hawkesbury and those communities is that we have heavy industrial traffic. The town sees 250 pulp trucks pass along Reeves Street in each direction each day, in addition to a significant amount of thru commercial traffic heading to Richmond County and Sydney. Those other communities do not have the same type of traffic on their three-lane streets.
I too spoke with officials from Shediac, Moncton, and New Minas, including two fire chiefs. They have told me that the most significant difference is that those communities have by-passes, which keeps the industrial traffic off the three-lane streets. Port Hawkesbury does not have a by-pass – and I need to make this clear – I do not support a by-pass for Port Hawkesbury, either. That said, without a by-pass, the industrial traffic has to go right down Reeves Street.
This is why I support taking smaller steps to address concerns regarding speed and safety. These smaller steps, such as introducing a protected left turn lane and increasing the police presence, can be achieved without increasing tax rates. While some may suggest that increasing the police presence along Reeves Street would require another officer to be hired and taxes to go up, the reality is that this could be achieved by working with the RCMP to identify priorities and establish a way for them to monitor Reeves Street more closely with existing staff.
During my discussions, I was also told by the fire chief in New Minas that although their three-lane street (Commercial Street) works well most of the time, there are still instances where the fire trucks get stuck at intersections during emergencies and they need to turn their lights and sirens off, and wait for traffic to move along. This is not how we want to see our fire department respond to emergencies. I have spoken to members of our fire department who have told me that while there has been an Emergency Services Committee created for Reeves Street, they do not feel that the Destination Reeves Street Committee has been receptive to the feedback and concerns that they have raised.
If the town was to proceed with a road diet, then I believe that we should first review studies about towns that reflect Port Hawkesbury’s circumstances and who have had success with three-lane streets.
The information provided to date has concerned towns that are very different from us, in that they have ways to re-route their industrial traffic. Until we can be assured that it will be safe for Port Hawkesbury, I suggest that we should explore some smaller steps to determine if they will adequately address the speed and safety concerns along Reeves Street, before moving on to more drastic changes.
Election Day is this Saturday, December 15. I ask for your vote, as I will work to ensure that Reeves Street is safe and accessible for all users, that our local hospital is appropriately staffed, and that senior citizens receive appropriate housing options in Port Hawkesbury.