Maybe the temporary on Bronson should be permanent

The noisy work crews on Bronson have taken a winter break. They need one. It must be dispiriting for them to be reconstructing Bronson in the same dysfunctional 1950’s pattern of urban abuse. Our city is sometimes like a dysfunctional family, where the mistakes of the prior-generation parents are doomed to be repeated by the so-called adults of the present.

Here’s a view of the Bronson-Somerset intersection prior to the construction. Note the big yellow signal lights we so love to festoon above the traffic lanes, suspended on long metal arms in turn supported by freestanding metal posts, sometimes known as “street furniture”.


For the winter, crews have put up temporary signals strung on parallel wires.

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Many other cities use this wire method of mounting all their signals at intersections. It requires only four poles, and the signals appear in the same location on all four sides of the intersection. I know wires running all over the place shouldn’t be attractive. But somehow, the wire suspension system — even in the temporary application on Bronson where the posts aren’t straight and minimal care was taken — looks somewhat neater than the collection of metal posts and arms, all of different lengths and angles, that Ottawa normally deploys at intersections.

It makes me wonder if the signals were put up permanently on wires rather than arms, would the intersection be neater than today? And maybe even more economical?

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(note that Somerset east of Bronson is mostly free of overhead wiring, the result of being a shovel-ready project at a time of prior Federal stimulus spending. Thank you Mac Harb. Unfortunately the freed-up overhead space was not put to good use, for example trees with large canopies).

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4 thoughts on “Maybe the temporary on Bronson should be permanent

  1. Hmm… well I think I prefer the look of the fixed signal lights, though I prefer even more the Quebec-style horizontal signal lights (also used in Calgary, albeit with yellow not black housings).

  2. The reason for the cable mounting is to be able to adjust the signal heads as the reduced lanes shift from side to side while the lanes adapt to the construction going on around it. They did the same thing at Bronson and Gladstone.

    Your hypothesis–that this reduces clutter and should perhaps be made permanent–is an interesting one, though I suspect this scheme requres more maintenance than status quo. It wouldn’t be univerally useful: we’d also need extra poles for the pedestrian signals (as at Somerset), and I’m currently sitting within sight of a traffic control signal where there is plenty of clearance should something ridiculously tall be driven down the road. The conventional arms protect the wires feeding the traffic signal, whereas I believe the wires must be loose on the strung ones. So there are some disadvantages, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

    Also, on aesthetics, the permanent posts on Bronson will be coloured like the street lighting. Apparently this is the new standard, but evidently the ‘standard’ is newer than the reconstructions of Preston, Bank and Somerset. You can see the new black poles on Bronson at Christie and at Arlington, the latter of which apparently won’t be activated until next Summer. The poles at Bronson and Somerset won’t be black.

    1. Sadly the ‘new’ Bronson looks amazing like the old Bronson. Burying all the electrical would have made a big difference and opened the street up. I know it’s all about budget but the city never seems to think about the future and just plows along with the same old same old. Sad.

  3. I will never understand the fixation that so many Ottawa urbanys have with overhead wires and their supposed ugliness.

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