The Nelson Downtown Waterfront Plan was put forward to make improvements and a direct connection from downtown to the waterfront for tourists and business. The process is to upgrade the traffic, walkability and green spaces to the connection along Hall Street between Baker Street and the waterfront, making it more user friendly. Currently, because of the limited sight distance, a concern is the potential accident risk when vehicles are traveling up Hall Street to the intersection of Hall Street and Vernon Street.
The focus is to use Hall Street to improve the walkability and traffic flow in making a direct connection from Baker Street to the waterfront. A few options were put forward at a recent public meeting held at the Nelson District Chamber of Commerce building. The city staff and consultants explained the proposals and received feedback from people at the meeting as to their concerns.
City staff are apprehensive about the vehicles travelling up Hall Street to Vernon Street intersection because of the potential accident hazard at the intersection. One proposal is to make Hall Street one-way going down from Vernon Street to Lake Street which may eliminate an accident hazard, but it has raised a number of concerns from local businesses. Such a change could put the main traffic flow along Front Street to Ward Street to access the downtown. Having vehicles only travelling down Hall Street could also limit the flow of vehicles and business from the waterfront to the north end of Baker Street and Vernon Street raising concerns from local business.
Another proposal is to continue with the current traffic pattern on Hall Street, but with a change to having vehicle uses a “right turn only” onto Vernon Street. In reducing the accident risk, it may be the more acceptable change, but again it inhibits the traffic flow left towards the Civic Arena and Kootenay Co-op project.
The proposal to change the traffic pattern on Hall Street with one way traffic going down Hall Street to Front Street, could be the most expensive option, as Cedar Street would also have to be upgraded to one way traffic only, from Front Street to Vernon Street. As well there is a proposal to change the one-way street from Vernon Street to Baker Street by switching the direction of the traffic flow to go one-way onto Baker Street.
One solution, not discussed, to improve the safety of the intersection of Hall and Vernon Street, without changing the current design could be to install traffic lights so that vehicles coming up Hall Street would see a flashing amber light and vehicles travelling on Vernon Street to the intersection with Hall Street would see a flashing red light along with the stop signs.
The objective of all these proposed improvements is to revamp Hall Street while making it a direct link from Baker Street to the Waterfront to enhance business and tourism. In putting forth the changes it has to be taken into consideration the traffic flow to the businesses that make up the northern end of Baker Street. The goal must be to continue to make this area a viable part of the downtown, especially with the revamp of the Civic Theatre and the proposal for the co-op building project.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with his colleagues around the table