Double-double traffic trouble in Chelsea, Quebec

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by admin on March 2, 2011

By Martti Lahtinen

Chelsea, Quebec public meetings are entertaining and disquieting, especially when the Meredith Centre is the focus.

Opponents take their positions as negatories and suppositories, the former desperate to halt its coming, the latter eager to put a plug in it and let’s just play.

The negatories air the conspiracy theory, that the multipurpose facility is driving council’s plans for a water line. They also sound fears of increased traffic and outsiders invading the village at all hours. Welcome to Chelsea: If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, keep on going.

They do have a point re traffic, and Mayor Green said a survey is planned. But for what? To show that, yes, Chelsea is very busy?

The Meredith Centre will be a minor player in the traffic numbers game. Squads of kids and adults rolling in for an hour’s ice time at non-peak hours is a non-issue.

There’s a bigger problem: Chelsea’s inability to control traffic at its entry and exit points at opposite ends of the two villages.

The Old Chelsea Road exit from Hwy 5 is a short-sighted, truncated relic that is outdated and plain dangerous. The NCC steering people to its Visitor Centre via a spin through the village has led to the chaotic – “busy” is the polite euphemism – smorgasbord that marks the Scott Road-Old Chelsea Road corner, most evident when unbroken streams of Camp Fortune skiers drive home. Leaf-watchers fall in place here.

Chelsea remains a proving ground for bad traffic ideas.

Meanwhile, Gatineau motorists can’t be blamed for using Old Chelsea Road – a stretch of it under the provincial jurisdiction – as a bypass, when traversing the sprawling, expanding municipality from Touraine to Aylmer, and vice versa.

Given the choice between navigating congested Saint Joseph Blvd with its daunting Jean-Proulx and Saint Raymond intersection smozzles, one sees the hassle-free benefits of a pleasant drive in the country, even with the additional travel time.

It’s bound to get worse, but how to stop it. Sure, Chelsea council can order up a survey. It  would at the very least establish a baseline for comparison when the village heralds the arrival – it has to come – of the next best thing to a hockey arena: Tim Hortons.

Old Chelsea Road will be ripe for it, inviting the Gatineau Ring Road bypassers, the hockey players of all ages, the senior citizens inside for a takeout, post-game refreshments or simply a place to hang out.

Instead of a survey, Chelsea should check out Vanier Road in Aylmer. What used to be a “rural” corner at the McEwen gas bar is now a zoo. The stretch between des Allumettieres and McConnell is five lanes wide, one combining as an exit for Hull and an entry for Tim Hortons.

There’s nothing rural about five lanes, but a leftover remains: the signal-free, four-way  intersection on the McEwen corner. It couldn’t be anything but. Backed-up traffic awaiting light changes would create instant gridlock.

A Tim Hortons outlet might the only strategy the municipality has to control traffic on Old Chelsea Road. A double-double speed bump.