MAPLETON – Township council has officially registered its objection to a move by Wellington County to divert truck traffic away from Fergus on Highway 6 to Wellington Roads 7 and 17.
At the July 14 meeting, Mapleton council discussed a motion presented by councillor Dennis Craven stating the township “is not in favour” of the alternate route, which is already in use with signs installed.
The motion passed as amended by Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson, who suggested stating council is not in favour of either the current alternate route or a permanent bypass.
“There’s several reasons really for this,” said Craven, citing an increase in traffic at Alma’s main intersection as well as other traffic-related issues.
“Part of the problem, too, is that some of them are using Nesbitt Street.
“But also, there’s a lot of noise from the trucks, especially the ones that are coming into town using their Jake brake.”
Craven added, “Combined with the noise and the safety of the kids, the extra traffic on 17, especially because of the kids going across to go to the school or to the park and for the seniors going across there to the park, it’s just a lot more traffic going across there and it’s just not safe to cross that road.”
While opposing the route through Alma, Craven conceded he was not sure what a good alternative would be.
“If we oppose this, they’re going to say, ‘Where would you put it then?’ And I don’t know where it could go, unless you take it straight through Alma and you really don’t want to go to Parker,” Craven stated.
Earlier in the meeting, council heard a presentation from a group known as Concerned Citizens of Wellington 7 and 17.
The group is seeking the township’s support for their plan to ask Wellington County council and the county roads committee for a reconsideration vote on the alternate route that directs traffic away from Highway 6 through Fergus to Wellington Roads 7 and 17 through Alma.
The group is also asking for the removal of all signage on these routes relating to the change.
The citizens also asked the township to commission an engineer’s report to “ascertain the safety of the intersection” of Wellington Roads 7 and 17, including if trucks travelling northbound on Wellington 7 could safely turn east onto Wellington Road 17.
“We believe that increased traffic along this route impacts the safety of those living and working here due to the already poor sightlines, current high levels of traffic at all times, as well as at rush hour/weekends, and the multiple school zones this route transverses – impacting school areas for Ponsonby, Salem and of course Alma Public School,” said Concerned Citizens spokesperson Amanda Reid.
“It would seem the hundreds of children that cross this route to attend Alma Public School, or have bus stops along this route to senior schools within the county, will be put at risk.
“Mapleton residents and all of those along Wellington 7 and 17 are now at increased risk, not to mention the already obvious lack of cross walks and traffic calming in all of these areas.”
In its presentation, the group noted “the costs to commercial businesses along the new truck route is yet to even be studied or understood.”
Davidson noted it is not the township’s responsibility to generate engineering reports for the intersection of two county roads.
“The county should have those. They should have had those when they reengineered that road,” he explained.
Councillor Paul Douglas agreed.
“I think maybe what we really want to see is a transportation impact study, just looking at the level of service,” said Douglas.
“As that truck route gets more volume and trucks can’t make that right turn, it’s going to start back things up and degrade that level of service.”
Reid agreed a traffic impact study would be helpful and noted the effect of more trucks turning at the Alma intersection is easy to see.
“Anyone who’s driven to Alma on a Friday night can attest … you can see traffic already lined up from the corner down past the windmills, down past Ferguson, almost as far as the top of the Salem hill. So there is definitely traffic lined up,” she stated.
Noting there will always be some truck traffic using the route, regardless of the status of the bypass, councillor Marlene Ottens suggested some of the issues at the intersection could be mitigated by backing up the stop line on Wellington Road 17.
“A truck is going to make a wide turn regardless,” said Ottens.
“What’s needed is a study on traffic, including a backed-up stop line at the corner so that truck can make those turns without cars having to back up or be in the way.”
Ottens added, “We need to deal with the traffic that’s there, rather than trying to assume all trucks are just magically going to disappear because the bypass disappears.”
James Ferrier, another member of the delegation, stated, “Just to be clear, we’re not against local truck traffic at all. We’re just trying to slow the trucks transiting through that aren’t local.”
Reid noted that when the intersection was redesigned a few years ago, stopping points for all left turn lanes for the intersection were pushed back.
Davidson asked the delegation if it has contacted the Wellington OPP when traffic violations are observed.
“Not me recently. I directed my conversations to you,” Reid replied.
Council accepted the group’s presentation as information.