It may be a huge attraction for shoppers, but some Aldershot residents won’t be sorry to see the IKEA store go, when it moves from its current location on Plains Road East to the North Service Road. Traffic congestion at the intersection of Plains Road East and Francis Road in front of the plaza, which also includes a Fortinos supermarket, has been driving motorists and pedestrians crazy since the store opened more than 20 years ago.
According to Tourism Burlington, the store is the number 1 tourist attraction in Halton. On weekends, when most people are searching for furniture bargains, traffic exiting the plaza on a curved road called Designers Way can be backed up all the way from the Plains Road East-Francis Road intersection to the IKEA store, a distance of about half a kilometre.
In addition, on weekdays commuters coming home from Toronto along Plains Road East can cause a jam-up from the intersection back as far as Maple Ave, almost one kilometre Dan Burns, manager of the SNAP Fitness gym in the plaza, said it’s almost impossible to get out on to Plains Road when the IKEA store is closing on Sunday.
“It creates a traffic jam at the lights,” he said. “When you’re just trying to leave your workplace, it shouldn’t take you all that extra time.” There have been several fender benders at the crossing and many more near misses, especially when drivers are attempting to turn left from Plains Road into the plaza.
However, Ward 2 Councillor Rick Craven said he hasn’t had a lot of complaints about congested traffic there.
“There was a complaint about the lack of a right turn lane from Francis Road on to Plains Road East,” he said. “Some people felt they couldn’t see traffic coming from the left. A new lane was requested but staff felt the cost was exorbitant.” He also said that about eight years ago IKEA was exploring an exit at the back of the store. “A next exit would have come out the back gone under the QEW and come out on Old Plains Road,” he said. “However, the Ministry of Transportation said it would cause too many problems.” Craven also said he has had no complaints about the difficulty turning left on to Plains Road East from the Shopper’s Drug Mart plaza, although senior citizens find it a major safety hazard and have been complaining to the City about it for a long time.
“As long as we continue to treat Plains Road as a highway, it’s always going to be a problem,” he said. The IKEA store opened in 1990. Vito Polone of the City’s planning department said at the time of site development the Ministry of Transportation and Communication mandated that there be only a right-in access to the plaza. “The MTC calls the shots and they did not like the idea of a second exit out of there so close to the QEW interchange,” he said.
Walter Mulkewich, who was councillor for Ward 1 when the plaza opened, said the MTC probably had good reasons for not allowing a second exit. “My guess is that no one fully understood what the impact of IKEA would be,” he said. “IKEA put an extension on after that time too.” Mulkewich said, rather than problems exiting the plaza, he recalls there used to be difficulty entering it for motorists heading west on Plains Road. “They had police officers there directing traffic,” he said.
The location of the Job’s Lane Cemetery, an historic site, near the corner of Plains Road and Francis Road, also cut down on the number of options planners had for more exits. The cemetery was started by United Empire Loyalists in 1848. IKEA has outgrown its current location. The store is moving to a new location on the North Service Road just west of Walker’s Line on a 25-acre parcel of land. The new set up will be 70 per cent bigger than the current one. A company spokesman said IKEA wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to face the QEW, a big help in attracting shoppers.