Council, residents concerned about MTO's plans for Hanlon
by Chris Daponte
Puslinch Fire Chief Dan Quinnell says upgrades to the Hanlon Expressway planned by the Ministry of Transportation will put Puslinch residents and travellers of Highway 401 at risk.
Quinnell is one of many in Puslinch Township - including staff members, councillors, and residents - who have expressed concerns over the upgrades. Community concern in Guelph is also very high.
The ministry is planning a major overhaul of the Hanlon, from Maltby Road to the Speed River, in an effort to improve traffic flow on that expressway, by removing several sets of traffic lights.
In Puslinch Township, that work includes a bridge on County Road 34 over the Hanlon, upgrading Concession 7 north of County Road 34 and adding a new interchange there, and eliminating access to the expressway from Maltby Road.
In a letter to the Ministry of Transportation, Quinnell said “dead-ending” Maltby Road would definitely increase his department’s response times and reduce its level of service to residents, as would building a bridge over the Hanlon on County Road 34.
In addition, such a bridge would essentially eliminate the department’s most direct route to Highway 401, “where seconds count to put out vehicle fires, remove people from vehicles, [and attend] medical calls,” the chief said.
At Puslinch council’s last meeting in January, Quinnell said he has met with Royal City Ambulance manager Sandy Smith and Wellington OPP Inspector Steve Walsh, both of whom concur with his opinions about the Hanlon project.
In addition to the enormous price tag associated with the plans (estimated to be upwards of $50-million), residents in Guelph and Puslinch have also expressed concerns about increased residential traffic, more noise and air pollution, decreased property values, and even the possible loss of some homes.
But environmental concerns top the list for many in the community, including Puslinch resident Paul Rice, who lives on the south side of Maltby Road.
“Although there are no specifically identified environmentally sensitive areas on the subject property, it is within the Mill Creek watershed, and on the Paris moraine,” Rice said.
He added that the MTO’s plans could harm local wetlands and potentially pollute the local water supply and nearby septic systems.
Rice also cited traffic issues, drawing a connection between the Hanlon project and a proposal by Guelph to extend Southgate Drive to Maltby Road to accommodate more industrial lands.
Rice wonders where Southgate traffic will go if access to the the Hanlon from Maltby Road is eliminated.
He suggested officials from the MTO, Stantec Consulting (the firm representing the ministry), Guelph, Puslinch, and various emergency services meet to discuss the matter.
Mayor Brad Whitcombe called that “a reasonable approach,” and said there appears to be some open-mindedness on all fronts.
Councillor Susan Fielding said she is not fooled by that openmindedness when it comes to the MTO, which she called “a very powerful body” that usually just does as it pleases regardless of the concerns of residents or municipalities.
“I think we’ve got an uphill battle,” she said of negotiating with the ministry.
Whitcombe replied if the township hopes to form a partnership with all the parties involved, it has to “go in with a positive attitude.” After all, he said, the MTO did previously make some concessions concerning a subdivision in Morriston.
Councillor Matthew Bulmer is optimistic something can be worked out, considering the township has the support of emergency services personnel and especially from residents.
“We don’t always get what we want when dealing with the MTO or [Guelph], but when residents get involved, we get a lot more,” Bulmer said.
As far as Guelph is concerned, Whitcombe said the standard of conduct at the new city council is “light years” ahead of the previous council.
“I’m confident the city will come to the table with a positive approach,” he said.
Councillor Don McKay thanked residents for getting involved. Councillor Dick Visser agreed with Fielding that the MTO is “close-minded.”
Visser also expressed some frustration with what he sees as short-sightedness on behalf of the MTO, saying the ministry cannot forever build new roads - it has to look at other options.
“They don’t seem to be getting the message,” he said.
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On the north side of the Guelph and Puslinch border, the MTO wants to close the Clair Road intersection.
It is planning a partial interchange at Kortright and Downey Roads, which would pass under the Hanlon, with access from the south only; and also an underpass at College Avenue.
At Stone Road, the ministry wants a full interchange, as well as another at Laird Road.
Vol 41 Issue 05