A project to fundamentally redesign Idylwyld Drive through Saskatoon’s downtown core received more clarity Monday as city administration officials detailed their vision for the major thoroughfare.
Plans were announced in June to propose an overhaul of Idylwyld Drive between 20th Street and 25th Street – titled “Imagine Idylwyld” – where one of the current seven lanes of traffic would be removed and raised bicycle tracks would be installed on either side of the road.
However, acting transportation director Jay Magus told councillors at this week’s governance and priorities committee meeting that bike paths weren’t the main thrust for researching a change on Idylwyld Dr.
“Today there’s only really three through-lanes and there’s a whole boatload, a mishmash of turning lanes,” he said.
“One reason (Imagine Idylwyld) works better in the future is we’d have four through-lanes.”
He displayed several videos of the main artery during rush hour, noting how traffic loaded up on the left/middle lane going southbound starting at 25th Street, because drivers know it is the only lane that gets them all the way through to the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge.
Magus also pointed out the confusion of the right lanes suddenly turning into right-turn-only options at 22nd Street and again at 20th Street.
This combined with left turn/through combination lanes in the northbound direction creates dangerous “dodges” into other queues and a lot of inefficient use of the road, he said.
The re-design would instead have two through-lanes each in the northbound and southbound directions, with right and left turn lanes becoming options at intersections where needed.
It would eliminate double left turn lanes onto 22nd Street, allowing for a green light in both northbound and southbound directions at the same time.
Magus said it was only after they had developed the re-imagination of Idylwyld Dr. that they realized there was space to place raised bicycle tracks on either side – paths level with the sidewalks, not the roadway.
“If a cycle track doesn’t move forward, we wouldn’t recommend putting in more pavement – that would be a waste of money,” he told councillors, saying instead administration would recommend a wider sidewalk or landscaping.
He added the re-design could improve land use along Idylwyld Dr. downtown, bringing more business to the area.
Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen said afterward she was glad the misconception that the plan was driven by a desire for bike paths was addressed.
“What we heard today is that it’s really about optimizing the travel speed for vehicles and doing that, happens to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists,” she said.
Asked about how confusing the drive down Idylwyld Dr. can be, she said it can be difficult even for experienced locals.
“Every block has a different lane configuration, it’s not intuitive even for people that use it every day,” she said.
“I was very pleased to see administration identify some ways to make that flow more smoothly.”
Ward 2 representative Hilary Gough was also impressed by the plan.
She said the redesign could help Idylwyld Dr. become welcoming to all forms of travel.
“This is the best option for vehicle traffic on that street, as well as the best option for the rest of the public realm – including both pedestrian and cycling transportation,” she said.
Coun. Zach Jeffries, representing Ward 10, noted they have to make sure the redesign can handle traffic at the busiest times.
“We need to make sure … we’re getting something that’s going to work for pedestrians and for drivers along that stretch,” he said.
Magus told councillors the “Imagine Idylwyld” project wouldn’t increase wait times, even during rush hour. He noted it wouldn’t create a bottleneck because the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and Idylwyld Dr. past 25th Street each only have four lanes of traffic.
City council hasn’t made any final decisions related to the project, and councillors received the report as information on Monday.