Redesigning Prince Albert Road

Prince Albert Road Today

If you missed the meeting on Thursday night at the Mic Mac Aquatic Club, there is an exciting project under consideration: a redesign of Prince Albert Road around Grahams Grove. The upcoming road project would run from the intersection with Sinclair up to the Superstore. HRM is considering narrowing this section from four lanes to two to make it safer for everyone while also expanding the greenspace that borders Lake Banook and reducing the long-term cost to taxpayers for maintaining asphalt.

Prince Albert Road. Potential project area shaded in yellow. Photo: Google

Why Prince Albert Road? Prince Albert Road by Grahams Grove is a four-lane street that becomes two lanes at Sinclair. Celtic and the other side streets that connect to Prince Albert aren’t major roads that divert off a lot of traffic. The bulk of the traffic on Prince Albert comes from the highway and Waverley/Port Wallace and continues on along Banook towards Downtown. Given that movement, what capacity or purpose are those extra two lanes from Sinclair to the highway serving? HRM’s preliminary analysis indicates they’re pretty much redundant and whether the road slims to two lanes at Sinclair or at the Superstore doesn’t make any difference. The traffic capacity in either case is basically the same.

I think the situation is actually worse though than just wasted space, the extra lanes make the street more hazardous for everyone. It’s been clearly demonstrated in the planning profession that we all respond to the type of infrastructure that is built. We mostly drive the speed that we feel safe at, not the speed that’s posted on signs. Since we can’t have a cop on every corner 24/7, we need to carefully consider how we design our roads. When we build wide-open, multi-lane roads that rarely require drivers to stop, we’re building the conditions for speed. That’s what Prince Albert Road is now around Grahams Grove. When Prince Albert widens to four lanes at Sinclair, it sends a signal to drivers to step on the gas. Crossing four lanes of fast moving traffic is intimidating for pedestrians and challenging for motorists seeking to enter or exit Prince Albert, especially from Glenwood Avenue and Lakeview Point Road. It also doesn’t do anything for the ambiance along Lake Banook

Changing Priorities: So if Prince Albert Road doesn’t work, why did we build it like this in the first place? Prince Albert Road is a product of a different era. The priority of planners and engineers following World War Two was to move cars as quickly as possible above all else. Rapid suburban growth created lots of traffic and the professionals of the time mistakenly thought adding more and more road capacity would resolve the problem. It’s become clear since that continually adding more lanes just induces more people to drive and for developers to build more car-dependent neighbourhoods farther away. The induced traffic quickly fills up new road space. We get what we build for. It’s a vicious circle and it took us decades to learn the lesson. The result is that today we have a legacy of infrastructure from 1960s-1990s that isn’t built for people and just doesn’t work very well.

To get a sense of the old City of Dartmouth’s thinking that was the norm for the time, checkout the nightmarish vision for a Victoria Road expressway (a confidential 1971 report now freely available through the municipal archives).

Imagine Victoria Road as a sunken expressway cutting across Dartmouth, demolishing half of the Flower Streets, an overpass at Thistle Street, all of the cross-streets like Cherry and Russell cut off, and a giant roundabout at the foot of Maple that, in some future phase, would have its own flyover ramps Cogswell style. Sullivan’s Pond adjacent to a spaghetti interchange of fast moving traffic? Truly an awful vision, but pretty standard thinking for the era.

Thanks goodness the City of Dartmouth didn’t have enough money to destroy itself in 1971 and the Victoria Road expressway was never built. Still, we ended up with scattered sections of roadway based on these ideas about how a city should function. The Cogswell Interchange is the most prominent local monument to the era, but Wyse Road, Alderney Drive, Prince Albert Road, and Victoria from Albro Lake to Highfield all have shades of the same. We’re passed all that now and cities around the world are rethinking how our streets are used and actively making changes to correct past mistakes. Prince Albert will never be four lanes down to Ochterloney and Alderney so why are we holding onto extra lanes that go nowhere?

Future Design Options: When Prince Albert Road came up on the paving list this past year, I asked staff if we could look at the underlying design rather than just replicate what’s already there. Staff agreed and what has emerged are two main concepts for a slimmer Prince Albert Road.

Option 1 for Prince Albert would remove two lanes and replace them with a wide central boulevard. A bit of Connaught Avenue in Dartmouth.

Option 2 would also remove two lanes, but it has two variations in how the roadway would be oriented. 2A keeps Prince Albert Road straight while 2B puts a slight curve in around Celtic to further control traffic speed. Both variations of Option 2 would add the space from the two removed lanes onto the green space alongside Lake Banook, but there would be slightly less new green space in 2B because of the curved road.

These designs are purely conceptual at this stage. If HRM opts to proceed, one of the concepts will need to be further developed. A timeline and budget to implement a project hasn’t yet been established. Thursday’s meeting was more of an HRM trial balloon for a future project. I’m eager to see this progress from trial balloon to project to see what’s really possible on Prince Albert Road and to begin fixing some of Dartmouth’s Cogswell era mistakes.

17 Comments

  1. Both a very informative posting and an excellent initiative. As correctly pointed out the additional two lanes are not needed and due to the wider than necessary road detract from pedestrian safety. I too support the trial balloon evolving to a traffic project.

  2. Make sure the future plan includes a turning left ONLY lane from PA onto Glendale (coming from the Superstore/Parclo. Even now with four lanes, it’s a very dangerous intersection.

    Actually, that whole area should be redesigned. Cars trying to get out from the Northend of PA drive (Yuill’s Garage), cars turning left onto Glendale, 2 lanes of traffic coming from the Parclo, cars turning left into Paddlers Cove businesses, etc. I don’t know who said there was no need for 4 lanes. I drive that strtch of road all the time. At suppertime the right lane going towards the parclo/Main St. is always backed up to Glendale. The second lane IS needed for traffic going towards Waverly Rd./parclo. Throw in an apartment building either in the Yuill’s spot, the funeral home spot, and old Ultramar spot – wow. This corner is crazy now. Why not straightening out the corner or make it a roundabout by buying a couple of those homes across from the Need’s store. Many possibilities. That Need’s store in a hinder to properly improving that area. It’s too big for it’s lot size, and it’s entrances are a problem. Get ride of the car entrance near the door, and use the new gas pump entrance. I don’t know hoe many times, I and many more drivers, have had to come to a complete stop on PA Rd. because someone turning into Need’s has to enter really slow as the sidewalk is so high it’ll wreck the underside of their car. If no 4 lanes, than turning lanes for Needs, Paddlers cove, Celtic, Condos, and Sinclair.

    Just an observation – due to the canal project, did they forget about the traffic flow? Hawthorne and Creighten should be a temp 3 way stop, and the parking area hear PA Rd. on Hawthorne should be temp removed. Way too much traffic with no flow – also the PA Rd. construction add to the mess. A detour up Sinclair like they do on the weekends in the summer, would be so much better. Stand there and observe. The city can’t see the forest for the trees.

    LOTS of possibilities.

  3. As someone who lives in Manor Park and uses Prince Albert Rd every day I very much want to comment on this idea. I agree with removing the extra lanes and putting in green space. Our daughter was one of the unfortunate ones that got hit while driving the inside lane on her way to school (having just pulled out of the Superstore). Someone trying to get out of Lakeview Pt Rd got impatient / frustrated and pulled out when they should not have. But I disagree with the statement that Glenwood / Celtic are not significantly used as cut through for traffic. I live there, every day my street is very busy with cars deciding to cut through to Portland from Prince Albert, or vice versa. And they seem to think they can drive far faster than they should while doing so. Likewise getting out of our community is difficult. Trying to turn left off Celtic / Glenwood is a nightmare. The Robins drive thru makes things at the end of Glenwood even worse. We have asked to have a set of lights at Celtic and have been told there is not enough traffic congestion to warrant it. Hmmm. Those decision makers should try getting on Prince Albert Rd at peak times. So while I agree with what the city is thinking of doing I would add that they should really consider a set of traffic lights at Celtic. And while they are at it maybe they can green light the initiative that has been in the works for the last 5 plus years – a trail around Penhorn Lake.

    • Still going to need 3 lanes (1 for turning as you noted). Is this improvement going to improve anything? Waste of money. Should be looking into improving the crazy corner by Glenwood, Yuill’s, Needs, and future apartment dwellings on that corner. Plus Paddler’s Cove is getting a retrofit. More people, more traffic, dangerous left turns. Oh, and what about the bus pull over areas.

      Nice to see other people voicing their concerns. City traffic specialists just don’t get it. There’s not enough traffic to warrant a traffic light at Celtic,Sinclair, or Glenwood. What is the tipping point number required for a traffic light? I see lots of traffic lights on empty intersections after rush hour.

      • I think this would improve the corner at Glenwood considerably. Right now, coming out of Glenwood is difficult, especially if you’re making a left. Not easy to cut across three lanes of fast moving traffic. This would slow it all down making it an easier maneuver to complete. The timing of this has come up because it needs to be repaved. Rather than waste money on paving road space that’s not needed, the thought is that’s instead the perfect time to redesign. If you’re going to spend money anyway, why not fix it? Reducing the amount of asphalt has long-term savings since that’s less road to maintain. From a cost perspective, it’s a slightly larger upfront expenditure, but a long-term savings. I think you’re right about the left turn lanes though. The concepts keep them for Celtic and Sinclair, but I suspect Glenwood would need one as well.

    • Hi Rhonda and Pat. Didn’t mean to suggest that shortcutting up through Manor Park isn’t an issue. Simply meant that it’s not the dominant traffic pattern on Prince Albert Road. I will mention your concerns about Celtic to the project engineers. At the open house, another resident suggested that they have a left and right turn on Celtic itself to make getting out of the street easier. The engineer suggested that we have to consider any changes like that carefully as it might actually encourage even more people to shortcut through Manor Park if they can easily get out at the other end. Same thought would likely apply to a traffic light, but I’ll raise it to see.

      • Thanks for your reply Sam. I agree that a traffic light at Celtic may encourage even more drivers to use our community as a cut-thru, but I think it is needed to make getting on to Prince Albert safer and easier. When we talked to your predecessor Gloria about the traffic issue she suggested we park our cars on the street during the day to slow down traffic. We have been doing that ever since.

    • The superstore/grahams grove exit/intersection was the only place I’ve ever been hit while on a bicycle in the city.

  4. Green space is very good, but… you take out two lanes of cars, and surely we can continue the bike path through that whole area.

    • The idea of bike or bus lanes was considered here, but with the AT path along Banook and the lack of a major bus route that is impeded by traffic both weren’t pursued at this time. I have spoken to AT about missing links in the area in the past. AT Plan commits HRM to doing another crossing of the Circ before 2020. The likely location would be to extend the Banook Greenway along the existing highway bridge to link up to the Waverely Road bike lanes on the other side.

  5. I like the reduction of lanes to two in order to enhance the enjoyment of the Banook lakeside. The green-space adjacent to the multi-use walkway to act as a buffer between pedestrian/cycle/stroller and traffic is preferred.
    I would still like a left-turn lane to remain for Sinclair, Glenwood, and Celtic in order to prevent backup for those wishing to continue downtown.

    • Thanks Spencer. Both concepts include turning lanes for Celtic and Sinclair. A number of people mentioned Glenwood at the open house. Something that I suspect would make its way into an actual design.

  6. Another issue to consider if reworking this area is the inability for cyclists to easily get on and off the shared pedestrian/cyclist pathway along that route and continuing over the circ. To get from the pathway and over the overpass there is no convenient route which makes using that pathway undesirable…encouraging cyclists to simply stay on the road. Narrowing the two lanes into one will make that tendency more problematic. Traveling from the overpass into downtown there are very few access points onto the path (which is at least more conveniently located directly to the cyclist’s right) which again, encourages cyclists to stay on the road. The shared path is not ideal for commuters in that many do not respect the lanes and commuting time can be doubled simply from trying to be courteous, waiting for pedestrians to move onto their designated side so cyclists can pass.

    • The AT Plan commits HRM to another crossing of the Circ before 2020. There are a couple of locations where this could happen, but the likely candidate is to retrofit the existing highway bridge to add a two-direction bike lane on the lake side (away from the two on and off ramps). This would link the Banook Greenway to the Waverely Road bike lanes. Hopefully will happen in the next few years since we have infrastructure on either side with a gap in the middle. Biking towards Waverly is a really hostile experience if you don’t go through Shubie!

  7. Hi Sam,I support the planning review as well but I will say I feel there should be a traffic light at Sinclair.Hope the planning department takes this in consideration.By the way Sam you continue doing a great job.Thanks.

  8. I love that they are looking to review. I live on Glenwood, and don’t drive. Right now, this whole area is very difficult to maneuver as a pedestrian. Do you know if there is any plan to look at improved transit through this area Sam? If there is any way I can get involved, please let me know!

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