Close York Street? North Dundas to gather opinions at special Winchester session tonight

One of two preferred options under consideration is the closure of York Street, above. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — Should North Dundas Township restrict York Street  to one-way traffic or close the road altogether?

Or would it be foolhardy to consider eliminating any available lanes of roadway in what is already the most traffic- and parking-choked urban area in the municipality?

At a special drop-in session this evening (June 22) in the Winchester Public School gym, the township’s engineering consultant will gather public input on two “preferred solutions” for the future of York Street — total closure or reduction to a one-way road.

Located immediately south of the school, the road runs between St. Lawerence Street and the main entrance of Winchester District Memorial Hospital at Louise Street.

Council has commissioned engineering firm AECOM to study vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the busy area after the Upper Canada District School Board requested that York be shut down. School board officials want the street closed to address safety concerns arising from the board’s plan to accommodate even more children at the site by establishing a new daycare on the school premises.

As recently as a decade ago, W.P.S. was deemed “prohibitive to repair” but has since been overhauled and expanded into a burgeoning amalgamated school challenging the confines of the village streets surrounding it.

One parent who spoke with Nation Valley News suggested they couldn’t imagine the chaos that would ensue, for drop-off and pick-up of students at the beginning and end of each school day, if York were to disappear, in a vicinity already extremely busy and with very limited parking options.

On-street parking is in tight supply around the hospital-school nexus, with perhaps as many no-parking signs per block as the busiest urban centres in the country. Council has piled on the street parking restrictions in recent years, in part to help Winchester District Memorial Hospital bolster its own parking revenues.

North Dundas Planning Director Calvin Pol confirmed that the Upper Canada District School Board claims York Street to be “unsafe, which is true because there is absolutely no markings or crossing signals ‎whatsoever.”

Pupils and staff are “basically jay walking across a roadway” to use school grounds on the opposite side of York, Pol pointed out.  “We did study the traffic on York and of the 700-plus vehicles, the average speed was around 25 km/hr,” he reported.

The cost of the study is being split three ways between the township, school board, and the hospital. Representatives from those entities as well as the United Counties of SD&G are all expected to attend tonight’s session, which is slated 4 to 8 p.m.

Following the meeting, the study team will review all comments in order to finalize the selection of the preferred alternative to address concerns in the subject area.

The hospital and Winchester Public School area is a warren of no-parking signs. The photo above shows Louise Street, which intersects York. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

With its wide shoulder, the south side of York Street was once a popular, unrestricted on-street free parking area near the hospital and school. But council changed that at some point in the not-too-distant past. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News


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