June 1, 2011
After a bad accident recently at the intersection of Second and Columbia, a lot of people have been quick to offer the simplistic solution of closing it off. This was even proposed in an editorial by The Daily News called Wait five minuets, then seal Second.
If we ran around closing off intersections every time there was an accident, there wouldn’t be any left. Instead, we need to look at the bigger picture. In this case, the problem is that almost all the traffic headed downtown from Columbia is forced into the chokepoint at Third.
The city made the left-turn lane longer, but there is still a massive volume of traffic being forced around one left turn. The city has tacitly admitted the problem with construction of wider sidewalks, which are designed in part to slow down traffic.
What makes things worse is that all this traffic is being funnelled through a school zone, which creates unwarranted danger for the young students at Stuart Wood elementary school.
Many of the people who turn left at Second could indeed be blamed for taking a shortcut. But in a sense they are demonstrating what we need to break the bottleneck at Third — more ways to get downtown from Columbia.
The first thing the city should do is make First a two-way street and put in a left-turn lane and left-turn signal at First and Columbia. This would siphon off much of the traffic that is now forced down Third.
And really, we don’t need a three lanes of one-way traffic going up First. Those lanes are never full of traffic, even in rush hour. Two lanes going up would be more than enough. One lane could go down and connect with traffic headed to the Overlander Bridge.
Further, left-turn lanes and left-turn signals should be placed at Fourth and Sixth to encourage more people to use these options to get downtown.
With downtown traffic spread over four intersections, the one at Second could indeed be closed off. West End residents would not be forced to take a longer route home and they would not have to worry about commuter traffic through their neighbourhoods.
A five-minute solution sounds tempting, but in this case it would wind up causing more problems than it solves.