Good news for the west side

The curtain is finally coming down on the West Side's rush-hour Gong Show. After years of public complaints, accidents and near accidents, the city is going to redesign Simms Corner.

Untangling the city's knottiest intersection is just part of City Hall's redevelopment plan. The Catherwood/Fairville Boulevard intersection will be redesigned; Harding Street West will be realigned with Lancaster Mall's main entrance; traffic lights, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes will be installed; and traffic will be routed to the Reversing Falls bridge more directly, by cutting over the hill of the former Centracare property.

The construction work will be completed in several phases and co-ordinated with other projects, such as the addition of new water lines under the Reversing Falls bridge and scheduled repairs to the Harbour Bridge. When it is completed, Simms Corner will no longer be a nightmare to navigate, traffic will no longer be held up on hairpin turns, entering Lancaster Mall safely will no longer be an exercise requiring guesswork, and traffic will flow smoothly through the west side's business district. It's the first step in bringing West Saint John the phenomenal commercial growth East Saint John is experiencing.

Not all the details have been worked out yet. Because provincial roads are involved, the city plans to seek provincial and federal partners for some of its construction projects. Requests must be made for infrastructure funding, and land acquisitions must be completed.

The city is prepared to get moving regardless, and the first call for tenders will be issued within a month. City works commissioner Paul Groody expects construction to begin in May.

Saint Johners (and proud Lancastrians) have waited decades for an administration with the foresight to recognize what could be accomplished if the west side's traffic snarls were combed out of the landscape.

Residents can thank the members of common council and Mr. Groody for putting Simms Corner on the priority list - and for keeping it there, alongside bigger priorities such as water treatment.

Published Monday February 9th, 2009  - Telegraph Journal


Simms Corner, phase one, starts in May

SAINT JOHN - Tenders will be called within a month for $1.4-million worth of work that will be the first step in reconfiguring Simms Corner.


               Paul Groody, the city's commissioner of municipal operations, at Simms Corner Friday.

Reconstruction of the Catherwood Street/Fairville Boulevard intersection that will extend beyond the lower entrance of Lancaster Mall will be included in this first phase, Paul Groody said Friday. Groody is the city's commissioner of municipal operations.

Construction will start in May. The design for the larger project will be complete by the end of the year, he said.

The initial work will also include realigning Harding Street West with the mall's lower entrance and the installation of traffic lights and sidewalks.

"A lot of traffic goes through there," Groody said.

"It will be arranged to allow for the future development of this whole area, not only on the Lancaster Mall side but on the other side as well.

"It will make for a better connection from Harding Street West and that connection will be aligned with the entrance to the mall.

From a traffic safety point of view, that's extremely important."

In the end, Simms Corner will be a signalized area that is pedestrian friendly and designed with bicycle lanes and sidewalks, Groody said.

The first phase is part of a much bigger $8.4-million project that involves a complete reconstruction of everything from the Catherwood Street/Fairville Boulevard intersection to the Reversing Falls Bridge, along with significant reconstruction on Main Street West and Lancaster Avenue.

The second phase, worth $3.5 million, involves giving a new Bridge Road a more direct route to the Reversing Falls bridge by cutting into the hill of the former Centracare property, relocating the Irving Oil Ltd. crude lines that run through the area and reconstructing a retaining wall along Fairville Boulevard, next door to Lancaster Mall.

The third phase involves street reconstruction from the entrance of Lancaster Mall all the way to the Reversing Falls bridge, up Main Street and Lancaster Avenue, at a cost of $3.5 million.

"In addition to street reconstruction, we need to make sure we work very closely with Irving Pulp and Paper and the tourist area to make sure access is co-ordinated with this project," he said."There needs to be some realignment of those access points."

Preliminary discussions have been held with Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. and with Waterfront Development, Saint John Energy, Saint John Transit, Aliant, N.B. Southern Railway, which has two crossings that will be affected, Transport Canada, and Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline.

NB Power has a high-voltage transmission line going through the area and the Irving Oil crude pipeline to Coleson Cove needs to be relocated.

"This isn't just a typical street project," Groody said.

The city also has to keep in mind the work that is planned for the Harbour Bridge because it and the Reversing Falls bridge cannot be under major reconstruction at the same time; the entire deck of the Harbour Bridge will be replaced over the next two years at a cost of $27 million.

Simms Corner work also needs to be co-ordinated with a Saint John Water project that will see two new pipelines under the Reversing Falls bridge.

Because the improvements will take place on roads with provincial designation, the city is calling for the province to pitch in and also for federal money under special infrastructure funding that was announced in the budget.

"I don't think it's fair to the municipality to have to pay the full cost of this reconstruction," Groody said.

"We're doing our utmost to bring in other partners who should have a part in this."

Subject to funding and other logistical details such as land acquisition and contractor availability, the plan is to tackle phase two in 2011 and phase three in 2012.

"It's in everybody's best interest to have this reconstruction," Groody said, noting it gets truck traffic off Harding Street and Main Street West.

"It's good for truck access to the highway and given that, it's good for everybody else."

Published Saturday February 7th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal