Traffic to be allowed on Regina's City Square Plaza
Another wrinkle in the ongoing saga of traffic in Regina's downtown will see one-way traffic returning to 12th Avenue.
On Monday night, city council approved a traffic study for the downtown that recommends opening up the City Square Plaza to vehicle traffic, starting this October. The stretch of 12th Avenue from Lorne Street through to Hamilton Street has been shut down since 2010 when the City prepared to begin construction on the site. That was also when the east/west streets downtown switched over to two-way traffic after decades as one-way lanes.
A consultant had told the City that one-way streets "kill" downtowns, but council made the decision to create a new, segmented one-way flow from east to west as a way to balance out concerns of drivers and pedestrians.
"We listened to hundreds of people," consultant Ryan Hollingworth told Monday's meeting.
"We listened to what people's concerns were, the need to protect the square for pedestrians but also the need to free things up for access to allow some (vehicle) circulation through the downtown."
City staff clarified that motorists will still be required to stop or yield to pedestrians whenever entering any portion of the plaza and traffic will be reduced to 20 km/h. Vehicle access will be permitted to those who want to turn left onto 12th from Scarth Street, but they'll only be able to go as far as Cornwall Street, where they will have to turn north. Drivers heading south on Cornwall into the plaza will be allowed to turn right to exit at Lorne Street.
Hollingworth admits the plan is "an on-going experiment." That's part of the reason council also elected to have city staff review the progress of the new traffic flow annually for the next five years, paying particular attention to whether or not two-way traffic could still be an option for the space.
Some will be surprised to see traffic on the plaza at all. City staff had gone back on previous statements in recent months, saying that the space wasn't designed to accommodate vehicle traffic and recommending that council designate it as pedestrian-only. That contradicted the City's stated claims before construction began; at that time, the intention was for the plaza to open to two-way traffic after the building phase was complete, shutting down only when programming or events were booked into the space.
At Monday night's meeting, senior city administrators and Deputy Mayor Mike O'Donnell admitted that the plaza construction was hampered by poor planning, which lead to massive delays and cost over-runs. Originally budgeted at around $9.5 million, the final price tag came in at $12.8 million.
O'Donnell also feels the city bungled the downtown traffic study itself, saying it shouldn't have been left until after the plaza was put together.
"I think there's a little bit of frustration on all of our parts that we are in this situation now," O'Donnell conceded, "When we had looked at this from the get-go we should have had it done right."
The Regina Police Service also recently clarified that as long as the plaza is closed to traffic and considered a pedestrian mall it will be illegal to ride a bike, skateboard, or use roller blades on the site. That will likely continue once it opens to traffic as well.
Edited by CJME's Karen Brownlee.