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Public information centre ran Wednesday night outlining options for reconstruction

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES
City engineer Stan Martinello stands near a display board while listening to resident concerns during a public information centre for the Front Street/Neywash Street corridor.

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES City engineer Stan Martinello stands near a display board while listening to resident concerns during a public information centre for the Front Street/Neywash Street corridor.

Front Street options were on display for the first time Wednesday night.

A public information centre was opened at the Orillia City Centre, part of the environmental assessment process for the reconstruction of Front Street/Neywash Street corridor, between Queen Street in the south and Laclie Street in the north.

"We're presenting basically four options for improving Front Street, taking into account the proposed developments that are happening between Front and Centennial," explained Tony Bosco of the Ainley Group, the consultants working on the project for the city. "We're also trying to take into account some aging infrastructure with the sanitary sewer underneath the CN right-of-way. We're going to be building a new sanitary sewer under Front Street to accommodate that."

Moving the sewer both opens up the CN right-of-way for development and allows for a significant reconfiguration of Front Street, if both the public and the city so desire.

The session was modestly attended, with about 30 people coming through the doors in the first hour alone.

Stan Martinello, project engineer for the city, was fielding a number of the concerns from residents.

"There's been some concern about people not wanting to lose their property," he said. "That is not something we're considering at this point. As far as we know at this point, we don't require any land acquisitions."

The volume of traffic on Front Street is also on the residents' minds, he added. Front is one of the busiest streets in the city, and Martinello said people were questioning him on how it would function in the future even under the four-lane scenario, let alone a three-lane scenario, which could allow for greater pedestrian and active transportation functionality.

With her bike helmet under her arm, area resident Cheryl Lousley came to the session to see just how the Front Street project would make the quality of life better in the downtown core, with a focus on pedestrians and cyclists.

"There's only one of the options that includes bike lanes," she said. "It's a little concerning that it's not included in all of the options. But, at least it is there, and hopefully with the feedback they're getting that is the option they go with."

That option, presented as Alternative 3, would have bike lanes on Front Street from Coldwater Street to King Street. The options and display board from Wednesday's session are available online at orillia.ca/en/city-hall/front-street-reconstruction.aspx#.

"What's the pedestrian experience?" Lousley said. "Four lanes of traffic? Pretty miserable to walk along Front Street when you're walking into Metro."

There is no preferred option at the moment, Bosco said.

"We wanted to be unbiased and we wanted to give the public a fair review of all four options," Bosco said. "All four options are viable. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, we're trying to (figure out) what does the public prefer to do."

Consultants and city staff will sit down with the comments received on the file and come up with responses. From there, they'll refine the options presented in advance of a second information centre, likely in the spring, with a preliminary preferred option in place which encompasses the city comments and public input.

Happening concurrently with the Front/Neywash EA is one for the realignment of Centennial Drive. While the projects are unique, they are very much intertwined, thanks in part to their geographic location. Bosco said the public information centre for Centennial Drive is set for November.

pbales@postmedia.com

twitter.com/patrickbales



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