Passing the Royal Botanical Gardens, where Plains Road is five lanes and banked slightly, drivers often get a rush of adrenaline as if they’re on the final turn at the Indianapolis Speedway.
Anxious to make the stretch of road safer, Burlington city council is considering a trial ‘road diet’ project that would reduce it from five to three lanes, from Gorton Ave. to York St., and widen bicycle lanes.
However, the news hasn’t been accepted widely with a lot of enthusiasm.
Aldershot resident Ron Cirotto thinks the village is fine the way it is.
“I feel sorry for the people who moved here and now somebody’s trying to change the face of the village,” he said. “People are being very naïve if they think they’re going to turn this into a bicycle city.
“Bicycle lanes are essential for the people who want to use them, but they shouldn’t be paramount. They’re a courtesy. The key mode of transportation is still the internal combustion engine. The popular feeling seems to be that anybody who drives a car is evil!”
Cirotto says he has no problem with dropping speed limits from 60 kilometres per hour down to 40, as long as there is no reduction in the number of traffic lanes.
Ray Easterbrook, proprietor of Easterbrook’s Hot dog Stand on Spring Gardens Road, recalls how beautiful it was when he was a child and Plains Road was only two lanes, one in each direction.
“But if they slowed traffic down so much that it became a bottleneck, drivers would avoid Plains Road altogether,” he said. “The highway used to go right in front of my restaurant. Then they re-routed it to in front of the RBG. It nearly put my parents out of business.”
“I’d like a sign on the road so people know where I am,” Easterbrook said.
The landmark eatery has been in the Easterbrook family for 82 years.
In a sense, there is a road diet in effect now on the stretch of Plains Road West that crosses the Wolfe Island Bridge, with construction going on and traffic reduced to one lane in each direction.
A Hamilton woman was seriously injured in a morning rush hour collision close to the RBG in September. The collision and subsequent scene investigation resulted in the road being closed for approximately five-and-a-half hours.
Leslie Bullock, who is co-chair of the Plains Road Village Vision and also sits of the board of the Royal Botanical Gardens, is willing to give the road diet a try.
“It would help to slow down traffic,” she said. “We learned that when we put in a median in front of the old Shopper’s Drug Mart,”
Bullock said some drivers are traveling 80 to 90 kilometres per hour, instead of the speed limit of 60 coming around the curve in front of the RBG.
“They have such a huge, visual expanse of asphalt and they go fast,” she said.
Halton Regional Police officers have been out in force in the area with their radar guns, especially since school opened again after Labour Day.
Don Smith, of Smith’s Funeral Homes, said he doesn’t think such a change would have a negative impact on funeral processions turning into Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
“We’ve found that the cremation rate is so high now, we’re having fewer processions,” he said. “In some cases, families have a Mass or a service then just tell people to meet at the cemetery.”
Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven said a traffic study done a few years ago showed that there are 35,000 cars a day traveling along Plains Road East, but only 12,000 a day on Plains Road West, west of Waterdown Road.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of a trial program,” he said. “It’s several years away and there’s a lot more time for public discussion.”
Craven said road diets have been tried and proved successful in St. Catharines and Waterloo. The City would change the lane markings back to the way they were if the experiment didn’t work, he said.
“The bigger question is, “What do we want Aldershot to be like in 20 years’,” he said. “Drivers will be slowed down, but is it worth two or three more minutes in your day to build a better community.”