The city wants to rebuild Lorne St from below the ground, up. This is a huge opportunity, but it can either cost us money, or make us money depending on the choices we make.
This Wednesday from 4-7pm at the Delki Dozzi field house you can hear what the city has planned for Lorne Street, and let them know your thoughts on what we can do. They need to replace sewer and water pipes, traffic lights, curbs and sidewalks. Basically, they’re going to tear everything up and replace it. But there’s no reason to replace it exactly as is. We can rebuild it in a way that will lead to higher property assessments, and more revenue for the city without increasing operating costs.
Roads aren’t just conduits for traffic, they are places and if they are the kinds of places where people want to spend time businesses make more money, property values improve and the city benefits. If our roads aren’t the kinds of places people want to spend time then they only cost money, and nobody benefits.
Lorne Street has been little more than an expense for decades. The street runs from Big Nickel Mine Road in the west, through the established residential neighbourhoods of Gatchell and the West End before bending north towards Elm Street, downtown Sudbury’s main street.
Lorne Street doesn’t have a reputation as a desirable place, and Gatchell hasn’t seen significant new investment in years. 62% of homes in the area were built before 1960 (page 11) and many of the commercial properties along Lorne Street are run-down. The only bank branch in the neighbourhood is set to close next month.
But the homes here are affordable (listed for under $250,000) and Delki Dozzi Park is a great resource with sports fields, a cycling track, hockey rink, duck pond and community garden. Young couples are slowly moving into the neighbourhood, but Lorne Street today isn’t the kind of place you’d want to go for a walk with your family (even if there is a Dairy Queen around the corner).
The north side of Lorne is zoned commercial for almost its entire length. There’s a lot of opportunity here, but with traffic whizzing by at 60 km/h its difficult for businesses to attract customers on foot from for their own neighbourhood, let alone the other side of the creek.
Nearly 4,000 households are located in Gatchell and the West End (page 8), just 3 kilometres from downtown Sudbury, but their only connection to the rest of the city is along Lorne Street which is severely hostile for cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.
If Lorne can be made more attractive to neighbourhood residents then businesses will benefit, and if people feel more comfortable biking on Lorne this will ease some of the pressure for parking downtown.
Current Street Conditions
Lorne Street looks something like this today:
Lorne has five lanes with a narrow boulevard and a sidewalk running on the north side only. The south side has a wide gravel shoulder and a strip of grass. The speed limit is 60 km/h but traffic volumes are well below the road’s capacity (page 10) so drivers often exceed the limit. Vacant lots and under-developed properties line the street and there have been 3 collisions with pedestrians within the project area between 2012 and 2014.
Here’s what it’s like to drive on:
This video was shot on Wednesday, February 23 at about 5pm, which should represent peak traffic time, but as you can see, traffic is very light. You also see the condition of buildings along Lorne and a number of vacant lots.
What the City is Proposing
The city needs to replace the sewer and water pipes beneath the road surface, so they’re taking the opportunity to also rebuild the curbs and sidewalk and the roadway. They also want to pave two metres of the shoulder on the south side of the street and replace some traffic lights. The public notice refers to these as improvements, but what they’re proposing is to rebuild Lorne Street to be virtually identical to the way it is now.
If this happens, then the next twenty years of development along this road will be identical to the past twenty years or maybe worse as current development trends continue and more people move out of the central part of Sudbury and into the outlying areas.
To attract new investment we need Lorne Street to become something new. Not just a road that goes past Gatchell, but a place where residents feel comfortable walking to local businesses like Tarini Bros., the Beef ‘n Bird and Dairy Queen. If Gatchell residents can bike to work instead of driving they’ll save thousands of dollars each year, money they can invest in their property or spend locally.
And the more attractive and comfortable Lorne Street is, the more likely residents from other neighbourhoods will also come to shop and spend money.
Using exactly the same width of public space Lorne Street could include a two-directional separated bike lane on the commercial side of the road. This can be done without reducing the number of vehicle lanes on the road. The bike lanes could be maintained seasonally so the city doesn’t lose any opportunities for snow storage (it would actually improve snow storage on the north side), and the lanes could be buffered with planters which would be an aesthetic improvement.
Residents Want It
These are the kinds of improvements Ward 1 residents said they wanted to see at the Community Action Network Annual General Meeting on October 5, 2015 (page 3):
- bike lanes;
- safer roads;
- greening of Lorne Street; etc.
And City Council has shown they want to improve our roads for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2007 Council passed a resolution to become the most pedestrian-friendly city in Ontario by 2015. This can’t be achieved by rebuilding our roads just the same as they have been for the past 60 years.
Our new Council understand this and their first budget earmarked $800,000 for cycling infrastructure annually (although none of it has been spent yet).
Ward 1 Councillor Mark Signoretti has also said that he’d like to see bike lanes on Lorne Street as part of this reconstruction.
There’s no reason we can’t rebuild Lorne Street better than it is today. Bike lanes should have been part of the city’s proposal, but now residents are in a position of having to demand it.
We’ve Got the Brains, They’ve Got the Brawn
The public meeting on Wednesday is specific to one small section of Lorne Street, but the entire road needs to be resurfaced over several years and residents need to let the city know that the status quo just won’t do.
Improving Lorne Street for pedestrians and cyclists (at no cost to drivers) will result in a return on investment through increased business activity and improved property assessments along its length and in surrounding neighbourhoods.
Write to your city councillor and be sure to submit your comments on this public consultation. Let them know your willing to spend a little more for a bigger improvement.