Written by Robin MacLennan
Downtown Barrie businesses will remain open to pedestrians during phase one of a major project to replace aging infrastructure, widen sidewalks and beautify historic Dunlop Street.
Arnott Construction Limited was set to begin work on Monday on the project expected to continue through Winter 2020 at a cost of $13.1 million.
Due to the busy construction sector in Ontario, only two bids were received for the massive project. Bala Araniyasundaran, the city’s director of engineering, outlined some of the reasons behind the steep price tag, including market conditions and the “challenging nature of the project.” He also noted that the City of Toronto has launched its busiest construction season ever.
Barrie’s is a phased project that includes underground work and larger sidewalks through the business area. Phase one runs from Mulcaster Street to Owen Street and is expected to last nine weeks.
The second phase, Dunlop East from Owen to Bayfield Street, will follow, likely in February or March, and continue for 10 weeks depending on weather. It will include the iconic Five Points intersection, with a modified boulevard on the north side which will incorporate the current small island.
The project also includes improved lighting and visibility in the downtown. Just over $5 million is approved to fund the first phase, with almost $4.2 million in forecasted funding set for 2020 and 2021.
“This project will not only replace aging infrastructure, it will improve the pedestrian experience while providing downtown businesses with more attractive, and accessible storefronts.” said Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman.
Barrie’s Downtown BIA will contribute $300,000 to the project over six years. Streetscape elements and beautification are funded by the city, the BIA, and the city’s tourism tax.
An assessment completed in 2015 looked at ways to improve the pedestrian environment by studying alternative streetscape configurations with the goal of creating more pedestrian space through wider sidewalks.
The construction will affect vehicular traffic as outlined:
- Preliminary Phase – Aug. 19 to Nov. 8, 2019 – Dunlop Street closed from Mulcaster to Poyntz St., including intersection of Dunlop and Mulcaster
- Phase 1A –Sept. 9 to Nov. 8, 2019 – Dunlop Street closed between Poyntz Street and Owen Street.
- Phase 1B – will start after completion of Phase 1A (tentatively spring 2020 to summer 2020) -Dunlop Street closed between Owen Street and Bayfield Street and the Five Point intersection.
According to the mayor, Dunlop Street improvements focus on safe pedestrian movements and accessibility throughout the Dunlop Street corridor (Toronto Street to Mulcaster Street) as well as ensuring area businesses are better serviced with enhanced lighting, visibility and service opportunities including on-road/ boulevard patios.
- pedestrian friendly streetscape, that will ensure accessibility for all users
- patio program providing operational flexibility and ease of implementation on a seasonal basis
- renewed infrastructure (sanitary and storm sewers, water main and utilities) as deemed necessary
- green infrastructure throughout the corridor to assist in the removal of road pollutants from storm water run-off while providing fertile environments for the long-term health of street trees;
- modernized approach to street parking through the replacement of parking meters with centralized ‘pay-and-display’ stations
- Impact Design (LID) upgrades to conform to current design standards
- utility upgrades (gas, telephone, cable, electricity, internet)
- roadway improvements to accommodate transit service vehicles
Tatham Engineering Limited, the same group that worked on Collingwood’s downtown improvements, designed the plan for Barrie.
It’s a “flexible” streetscape, which will increase the amount, style, and size of the popular Dunlop Street patios. While there are no bike lanes planned, cyclists will be able to share the actual roadway with vehicles since the narrower street will slow traffic. More bike racks will be added in the downtown area.
Key intersections will be narrowed by extending boulevard areas out into the street to create easier crossings for pedestrians.
The Five Points intersection will see the most significant change by eliminating a confusing traffic pattern with “bumped out” boulevards. The plan also calls for Owen Street becoming one-way, heading south directly to the new Memorial Square.
Underground services will be revamped, adding fibre optics to improve internet services in the area. The city and Downtown Barrie have been focusing on making the area digital media hub.