City and region conduct traffic impact assessment review for Blair mega warehouse
The group opposed to a massive ecommerce warehouse in Blair knows their concerns don’t necessarily resonate with the majority of Cambridge residents.
Traffic, however, has the potential to impact all drivers and taxpayers in the area.
That’s why Tim Armstrong and other Blair Engaged members are sounding the alarm now that City of Cambridge and Region of Waterloo staff are reviewing a Development Traffic Impact Assessment that finds no change is necessary to allow the addition of almost 400 additional vehicles. daily trips on the roads near Blair.
With the addition of hundreds of transport trucks and other vehicles to an already busy route at rush hour, Armstrong says it is inevitable that there will be problems, even though the “based” estimates of the study are correct.
“People commuting should really get involved in this as it is going to have an impact on their commute,” said Armstrong, pointing west on Dickie Settlement Road. “This is the main thoroughfare to Kitchener for the people of Cambridge.”
“In the summer, it’s crazy here.”
Anyone who drove Fountain Street South past Blair during the afternoon rush hour knows what Armstrong is talking about.
Traffic slows steadily at the Blair Road and Fountain Street roundabout, half a kilometer east of the proposed development.
Sometimes there are bottlenecks at the point where vehicles line up on the Fountain Street Bridge over the Grand River.
At the intersection that would serve the warehouse, the Fountain and Dickie Settlement roundabout handles commuter traffic between Kitchener and Cambridge.
It also supplies Conestoga College’s Cambridge campus and delivers heavy-haul gravel trucks west through the intersection to the pits in North Dumfries Township.
With 110 loading docks, Blair Engaged says the warehouse planned for this corner will have a capacity of 50 trucks per hour or up to 1,200 trucks per day; numbers that the group says will generate far more traffic than the 386 truck trips featured in the study released last month by Paradigm Transportation Solutions Ltd.
Broccolini Real Estate Group Inc., the firm behind the proposed warehouse, hired Paradigm to conduct the Transportation Impact Study last year.
It describes the impacts on Fountain Street, Dickie Settlement Road, Old Mill Road and surrounding intersections, including 401 Cloverleaf and Homer Watson Boulevard further north.
Paradigm estimates that the warehouse will add 191 morning rush hour trips to and from the warehouse and 288 afternoon rush hour trips. Most of this traffic will pass through the Fountain Street and Dickie Settlement roundabout to and from Highway 401.
In addition to the loading docks, the project site plan includes 825 parking spaces and 300 transport trailer parking spaces.
An additional 36,241 square foot office space will house between 683 and 1,075 employees during the peak season from November to February.
But Paradigm says the overall development is expected to generate less traffic than the multi-tenant industrial park the city approved for 140 Old Mill Road. back in 2016.
This project, which adopted the city’s zoning changes without raising as many concerns from neighbors, would have generated approximately 3,235 daily passenger vehicle trips and approximately 547 truck trips per day.
“This represents 1,085 and 161 more daily passenger vehicle and truck trips, respectively, than current development suggests,” the study reads.
Paradigm recommends that the warehouse be approved without conditions related to offsite transportation improvements and states that “no further corrective action is required … to account for anticipated traffic increases and impacts resulting from site development.” .
The region has already agreed to take steps to relieve pressure on the Fountain Street South roundabout and plans to install a right-hand bypass on Dickie Settlement Road on the easterly approach to the roundabout.
It will also widen Dickie Settlement to Old Mill Road, adding an elevated median to prevent traffic from crossing the eastern section of Old Mill and entering Blair.
Armstrong doesn’t think it will help.
“There is nothing in the traffic study that explains how they arrived at these numbers,” he says. “I think they picked the data points to make the study as good as it could be.”
Now Armstrong and others fear the city and region may agree as the two municipalities have already proven they are unwilling to challenge the developer.
Another item he believes to be inaccurate is the estimates of traffic generated to and from the college.
The counts taken last fall and this spring were used to predict that the average morning rush hour to school would be between 250 and 280 vehicle trips.
The problem with using this data, he says, is that it was taken during pandemic shutdowns when most of the students were in virtual learning environments.
“I dispute their numbers. It doesn’t add up,” says Armstrong. “And once they get in, the city has a huge problem to deal with.”
This is a problem, he believes, that could eventually be borne by taxpayers if the region and city did not demand more from the developer before turning the study green.
The two municipalities are reviewing the data before preparing a report to the councils at the start of the new year.
Armstrong says he was told this probably wouldn’t happen until June of next year.
Broccolini had hoped to innovate on the project last summer with plans for the still unnamed tenant to take possession towards the end of 2022.