Kenmount Road in St. John’s is something of a symptom right now — and if we don’t start working on a prescription, those symptoms are only going to get worse.
With traffic avoiding Paradise road work, Kenmount Road was close to being a parking lot Tuesday morning, stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic bringing tempers to a boil. It’s Kenmount Road today, but it has been plenty of other places, too.
All summer, road work in and on the outskirts of St. John’s has shown something quite clearly: we’re not very far from a transportation tipping point.
Knots of construction work this year on any of the roads leading into the city — Thorburn Road, Portugal Cove Road, Torbay Road, Topsail Road and the Manuels Access Road — have shown that we’re essentially on the edge of being able to manage traffic flows. As soon as one arterial narrows for work, it becomes clear that the others can’t carry the weight.
Traffic turning off the Outer Ring Road and onto Allandale Road can have backups on the off-ramp that are up to a kilometre long filling the shoulder. Drivers coming out of Paradise were treated to commutes that sounded more like escaping Toronto than driving into St. John’s. None of those arterials are showing any sign of being widened (except for the work on the Torbay bypass) and the communities that feed into St. John’s are doing nothing but growing.
Danny Williams’ Glencrest is planning more and more homes, developments in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s are stripping acres of trees for more subdivisions, Conception Bay South and Paradise seem to want to fill every square inch of ground with new homes, but at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be a co-ordinated effort to try and make a cohesive Northeast Avalon traffic plan for the future.
Heck, when the province funded the highway extension to run between the Goulds bypass and the Outer Ring Road, the cities of St. John’s and Mount Pearl couldn’t even come to an agreement on jointly paying for plowing the completed highway.
Certainly, the town council in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s is more concerned about its own tax base growing than it is about congestion on the roads leading into the St. John’s area. And that’s likely the case for many satellite communities.
But eventually, the gridlock will reach a point where the difficulties of commuting to work will start to affect the value of houses whose owners have to spend longer and longer periods of time on the road.
There’s plenty of traffic options, from computerized co-ordinated traffic light systems to roadway load-monitoring technology that could help ease the burden. After all, we’re not the first place to face traffic woes; others have found solutions that we could avail of.
We are new to it, though. As a Telegram editor pointed out yesterday, it wasn’t all that long ago that radio stations in the city didn’t have traffic reporters. Now, they do.
But in order to solve any of this, all of the communities on the Northeast Avalon have to start working cohesively to plan — and to pay for — the work that is going to have to be done.