COLUMN: Design may not be perfect for Nelson

The City Council and staff have been diligently working on the Downtown-Waterfront master plan proposal.

The December holiday season is beginning as another busy year ends. The City Council and staff have been diligently working on the Downtown-Waterfront master plan proposal.

The city has hired a consulting firm to design a plan to link the downtown core with the waterfront along Hall Street and do design improvements around the streets in the down town core.

After a lot of committee work, the layout of the “Downtown-Waterfront plan” has gone for public review and comment. Some people have commented that it is unfortunate that the design of the “Nelson Commons” development does not have a retro-look to better fit into the downtown core.

In addition the Nelson Commons development may result in more vehicle traffic flow in the area.

With more vehicles, a contentious issue was whether to change the traffic direction on Hall Street between Vernon Street and Lake Street to one-way going down towards the water front.

It has been a topic for a lot of discussion by local business. So it will remain a two-way street for the time being, although it could change to a one-way street at a future date.

Over the years there have been only a few accidents on the intersection of Hall Street and Vernon Street, therefore no changes really need to be made.

A suggestion to improve safety could be adding traffic lights, which would be a flashing red facing the stop signs on Vernon Street and flashing amber facing the approach up Hall Street.

Another design suggestion from the consultants is to do sidewalk bump outs on a number of intersections on Victoria, Baker and Vernon Streets which are designed for traffic calming and pedestrian safety.

A city the size of Nelson does not need traffic calming as vehicles travel fairly slowly now with the short distances between traffic lights.

Also having sidewalk bump outs could inhibit the turning radius of a number of large vehicles such as with vehicles with trailers, the large buses, fire trucks and even some 18-wheelers that use our city intersections.

While it is a great idea to improve city intersections, Nelson is not a large city and Baker Street has a narrower width than most main streets.

Another issue with sidewalk bump outs is they could slow traffic down, reducing right turns, so more vehicles would be stationary, idling, waiting for the lights to change causing more pollution.

The ideal situation is to keep traffic flowing reducing the effluence.

While it is a great idea to have more green spaces on Hall Street corridor to the water front there also needs to be additional attractions and store fronts to attract pedestrians.

Being a steep street people do not necessarily want to walk up hill towards Vernon Street.  When the city goes ahead to put new pavement on Hall Street, a good idea would be do a seal coat on the steep section.

This is where crushed rock is rolled on top of the hot new pavement to give it more traction and resistance to wear.

If this is not done, the new pavement on the steep section could become a skating rink with black ice and snow in the winter months.

All this work is going to be very expensive so it will probably be done in stages to spread the cost out over time.

Unfortunately with such designs plans, as sidewalk bump outs, which may work in some larger cities, they do not necessarily work in Nelson, with narrow streets and tighter turning radiuses.

However, a positive improvement in the downtown core this year, is the increase of tree and pole lights, with many thanks to the volunteers. So this season, remember to shop local to support Nelson businesses.

So with the holidays upon us, Colleen and I would like to wish a Happy Holidays to all city staff, city employees and all the Nelson businesses and citizens.