Nelson city councillor Robin Cherbo

COLUMN: The future of Railtown and Baker St. discussed

Over the last few weeks there have been meetings to discuss and have input on proposed changes to Railtown and Baker St.

While some people were looking for more detailed descriptions of what is proposed at the Railtown, the meeting was more of a design projection of what could happen in the future.

Other past meetings were an opportunity to give input with proposals for improvements to the downtown core, especially Baker St. Railtown design proposals were a projection of ideas that could happen in 10 to 20 years but very unlikely to happen in the near future.

A number of people who attended the open meeting at the Chamber of Commerce board room were expecting more details on the next phase and were disappointed to see the futuristic projection of the Railtown area.

A big concern was the sparse details on the allotted area for the new farmers’ market and how it would fit in at the previous location along with a connection to the Japanese Gardens. Overall, it was a great artist concept projection of the area, but people attending seemed to want more actual detail of what is going to happen in the near future.

Another meeting was held to receive input from the public on their ideas for improvement to the downtown core, mainly on Baker St. from Gericks to Railtown.

While there were a number of interesting ideas proposed, most comments, according to the Nelson Star article, questioned how to maintain the flow of traffic. With the parkade being closed due to structural concerns, there have been complaints about the loss of parking spots due to construction and the street patios.

The idea of more “bulb outs,” similar to the intersection of Hall St. and Vernon St., are concerning. Most people know when you stop at the stop sign next to Finley’s Bar and Grill you cannot see vehicles coming up Hall Street onto Vernon Street without driving ahead into the intersection and looking before driving through along with no right turn lane.

The new bulb outs constructed on Vernon and Stanley Streets, with fresh crosswalk paint and new signing, are a great improvement for pedestrians’ safety and do not impede the flow of vehicles.

On the other hand, putting larger bulb outs along Baker St. at the intersections is going to impede the flow of traffic and could eliminate right turn lanes, which could result in vehicles having to line up back into the previous intersection.

Not to mention that Baker St. is not very wide (compared to Vernon St.) so bulb outs are not necessary to shorten the distance for pedestrians to cross the street. Likewise, the line of vehicles waiting to make a right turn could be sitting idling in a stationary position for a longer period of time adding to the pollution.

The design work proposed does not seem to take into consideration the number of 18-plus wheel trucks that service the downtown core bringing in supplies. The downtown core has narrow streets and alleys and it is currently difficult for larger trucks to maneuver in and around town.

The idea to open up the amenity areas for pedestrians to cross Baker St. was tried a number of years ago and it did not work well resulting in slowing down the traffic flow backing traffic into the intersection and upsetting drivers and pedestrians alike.

The downtown businesses pay substantial taxes and they also should be consulted and taken into consideration when any changes are proposed that could affect their business.

The idea to beautify the downtown core is a good idea, so a better place to start would be going ahead with minor changes and a revitalization of all the buildings such as applying new paint, awnings and cleaning the marble rock work.

Refreshing the historic buildings would go a long way to vitalize the downtown core as it was cleaned up and restored in the early 1980s.

While the number of proposed ideas for Railtown and Baker St. improvements look great on paper, some of the proposed changes are not practical.

There is already congestion in the downtown core without any more traffic design changes.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and common sense will rule the day if and when there more proposed design changes contemplated or constructed.

Nelson city councillor Robin Cherbo shares this space weekly with his council colleagues.

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