SO, the City is considering five separate road underpasses or overpasses in the area where Woodroffe makes it out to Barrhaven. Initial costs are $430 million dollars. An admittedly very preliminary guesstimate. Not including the cost of construction detours, moving water works, acquiring land, etc etc. Inflation anyone?
Politicians want these so that they look like they are responding to a high profile bus-train crash. Consultants want these because their fees will be at least 10% of the total, or $43-50 million. Construction firms are delighted as they envision the money floating down on parachutes from the great Liberal Infrastructure cargo helicopter hovering up above.
Underpasses might look similar to this one, on Greenbank Road:
Notice the huge land acquisition. The 21′ clearance required above cyclists and pedestrians as they go under the bridge. The huge snow dump boulevards to the sides. The lack of access to adjacent properties and subsequent tax penalty. Imagine the speed those cars can get up to on such a wide, straight freeway. Nirvana.
Unmentioned is the ongoing maintenance costs (assume 100% of the capital costs every 40 years) paid out of local taxes, not T2’s pocket.
Would that $430 million save more lives if spent on other projects? ** Does the report compare the Barrhaven grade separations against other life-saving projects?
Does evidence matter or does emotion rule?
Is there a cheaper alternative?
Well, actually, now that you ask, there is.
Those roads approach the railway tracks at an angle, not 90 degrees.
Imagine if each road was slightly modified to that it approached the tracks at right angles. That modification isn’t put a thousand feet out, with a huge gentle curve that
permits encourages mandates that cars travel at high speed. Instead, it’s a bit of a turn. It encourages drivers, all drivers, to pay attention to the road. (If vehicles don’t make it, they end up in a field. Safe.)
As they approach the tracks, the two lanes in each direction widen to be three, or maybe four lanes.
More lanes, but narrower. Maybe 9′ wide, instead of 14′.
And put hefty concrete walls between the lanes, about 4′ high. Motorists will slow down, especially the cautious ones. Their behaviour will force the following motorists to also slow down.
As the vehicles approach the tracks, there is a stop line with traffic signals and a gate. Not a flimsy break-off gate, but a steel one that will scratch and dent your precious car. The gate comes down when a train approaches (twenty-six times a day?). Maybe it could come down at random signal times too, just like low traffic signalized intersections also periodically cycle through red lights just to keep motorists aware there are signals, etc.
Does this construction sound outrageous?
It shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly standard old-fashioned toll booth plaza found on high speed highways all over the world.
In fact, while we are building these sluice gates, these chicanes, these race-horse starting gates, these toll-booth lanes, why not put a basket in too and charge each motorist 25 cents, to pay for the road improvement. After all, they don’t have to use these roads. There are alternatives.
WWCS? What will Councillors say?
It’s a new idea, mustn’t do that. Or maybe, let’s look at it, hire those same consultants to examine the scheme, of course they won’t be biased by the threat of losing $45 million of fees. Or maybe, send it to city staff, who can invent hundreds of ridiculously high expenses and what-if’s that will price this out of reach.
WWCD? What will Councillors do? My bet is “go with the flow”, don’t rock the boat, just ask T2 for the money …
** About the cross-product justification for the grade separation. Unlike Ottawa, most cities have industries. Unlike in Ottawa, most trains are long freight trains, that block flat intersections for lengthy times, sometimes at rush hour, and then a deluge or pulse of traffic overwhelms the next traffic signal, chaos ensues, etc etc.
The measure of annoyance for a separation is No of Road Vehicles/Day x No of Trains/Day. (This is an annoyance index, not a “need” or “safety” index). The cross product standard of 200,000/day suggests maybe a grade separation should be examined (not, “is required”). The Woodrooffe Road / VIA cross product is 518,000.
However, notice that the Woodroffe / Hunt Club intersection, and the Woodroffe / Baseline intersections, which are also the scenes of (fatal?) accidents being in the city’s top 10 most-collision-prone, have a cross product of about 900,000. Each. Why aren’t we saving more lives by grade separating those intersections instead? Isn’t the object of this exercise to “save lives?”
And note that VIA trains are moving slowly in Barrhaven, because of the station there. In Calgary there are light rail crossings of busy roads which have dozens of trains per day so the cross-products there would easily blow Woodroffe out of the water. Calgary uses traffic lights for the crossings. No chicanes or concrete toll plazas required. And like intersections everywhere, sometimes there are
accidents collisions. And fatalities. Yet we live on, largely accepting them.
No need for a Vision Zero program, says our mayor. But a billion dollars of grade separations, bring ’em on. Drivers in Barrhaven shall rejoice.