Western Road gets beautified

Western and London team up to fix worst road

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A construction worker directing traffic with a STOP sign

Jon Purdy

"IT'S TRUE, I AUDITIONED FOR THE VILLAGE PEOPLE." A construction worker directs traffic on Western Road, where construction is taking place over the summer.

After being voted the fourth worst road in Ontario last year by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), Western Road is receiving long-awaited improvements.

Currently, construction is underway to widen and improve the section of Western Road from Huron University College north to Windermere Road, with completion slated for Dec. 2007.

The CAA’s Worst Roads website details numerous hazards of Western Road, ranging from potholes to faded lane markings. On the website CAA said, “The section of ‘road’ through the university campus area remains one of the worst roads this coalition representative has ever seen.”

Western Road is being fixed thanks to a joint project between Western and the city of London. The City of London has allotted $8.4 million of the capital budget " which includes funds for renewal and growth infrastructure projects " to widening Western Road.

The draft of Western’s 2007 Campus Master Plan details the project’s features including two traffic lanes in each direction, a landscaped centre median, bicycle lanes, and signals at major intersections for increased pedestrian safety.

According to John Lucas, division manager for transportation planning and design for the City of London, other benefits include improvement of the Medway Creek Bridge and additional bus bays for both London Transit Commission and internal circulation buses.

“There will also be an aesthetic benefit,” Lucas said. “[For example], more medians, concrete planter boxes, and banner poles.”

Initially, these aesthetic elements led to some controversy within London City Council. While some councilors questioned the necessity of such enhancements, others, such as Ward 6 councilor Nancy Branscombe, deemed them beneficial to both Western and the London community.

“For institutions [like Western], extra plantings add to the character,” Branscombe said. “People from out of town use [Western Road], and people from out of the country, students, faculty " it’s win-win all around.”

London City Council also had concerns about Western’s financial contribution to the project.

According to Dave Riddell, associate vice-president of physical plant and capital planning at Western, the university will contribute $557,000 and carry an additional $230,000 which will be reimbursed from the City of London Urban Works Fund.

“We consider Western’s contribution to be fair and, although there was some concern from some members of [City] Council, the majority voted in favour of the project,” Riddell said.

Construction will coincide with students’ return in September, Riddell said, adding the city hopes to have all paving completed before that time.

“They’re working really hard to make sure [construction] is not disruptive to the students returning,” Branscombe said.

“Council agreed it was best to just go ahead and do it,” Lucas said. “We are making that mad dash " we’re counting on some reasonably good weather.”

Construction north of Windermere to Richmond will continue after 2016.

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