Northeast Town hopes to alleviate Tim Hortons traffic concerns

Parking in the far right-hand lane will soon be a thing of the past as this lane on Manitowaning Road is set to become another passageway for northbound traffic in the hopes it will alleviate summer bottleneck concerns.

LITTLE CURRENT – The Northeast Town sought the advice of traffic engineer Toivo Rukholm regarding what they anticipate to be a traffic issue this summer along Manitowaning Road due to the popularity of the new Tim Hortons franchise and vehicles holding up traffic as they wait to enter, or leave, the parking lot. This concern was graphically demonstrated last fall in the first few weeks after the franchise opened when roadside lineups of vehicles waiting to enter the Tim Hortons parking lot and drive-through area caused bottlenecks.

Mr. Rukholm offered three suggestions to council. The first was to eliminate the parking lane that runs almost the entire east side of Manitowaning Road between Draper and Blake streets, thereby making it into two lanes of northbound traffic. The second option was to eliminate the parking lane but also make the left-hand lane a turning lane for the Tim Hortons, complete with painted arrows on the pavement. With both these options, the placement of ‘no parking’ signs would be added along the east side of the road.

The third option was to widen Manitowaning Road on the west side from Blake Street south which would create a taper and right turn lane into Tim Hortons. The turning lane would fit approximately four vehicles, CAO Dave Williamson explained to council.

“We all suspect a problem, the question is: where is the actual problem we need to address?” Mr. Williamson posed to council, suggesting that this summer could be a year to watch and study, then act.

“We have to do something about this,” said Councillor Bill Koehler. “It’s going to be a real nightmare in the summer,” he added, citing concerns with emergency vehicles needing to go through. The councillor said he didn’t think the municipality should wait an entire year to act.

Councillor Al Boyd said he saw both sides of the coin, waiting and acting, but recalled the early days of the franchise’s opening and the glimpse that time offered of what summer traffic could look like.

“I don’t know how bad it’s going to get, but I would bet money it’s going to be a terrible year,” Councillor Boyd added.

Councillor Michael Erskine suggested going with the first option, which would offer some relief and be the least expensive of the options, which was confirmed by the CAO. The councillor added that the fix should be monitored, however, to see that it in fact was the right decision to make.

Councillor Jim Ferguson asked if Ministry of Transportation permission would be required as this is a ‘connecting link.’ Mr. Williamson explained that the roadway is municipally-owned and does not need MTO approval (although staff would confer with them before making the changes), but it would require a municipal bylaw change.

Councillor Boyd suggested that ‘no stopping’ signs be placed alongside the ‘no parking’ signs.

Councillor Barb Baker said she agreed with the first option as a short-term fix, but said she has concerns with the potential for accidents. She reported seeing on more than one occasion impatient southbound drivers who found themselves stuck behind cars which were waiting to turn into the parking lot, choosing to move into the northbound lane to pass the franchise lineup and almost being struck by oncoming traffic.

Council passed a motion to eliminate the parking lane and to place signs along the roadway, with the caveat that traffic flow will be studied in the coming months.