A unanimous vote in Centre Wellington is almost cause for a news story itself. How the issue of bike lanes on Highway 6 (St. David Street North) in Fergus became a galvanizing force for a council that couldn’t even pass an agenda weeks earlier is a mystery in itself.
At any rate, the future has unfolded and proponents of active transportation have their wish. Millions will be spent and fingers crossed – thousands of cyclists per year will benefit, as will shopkeepers. It all sounds so good. Despite the mayor’s exclamation of “having the opportunity to be visionaries” it is questionable whether the just-approved vision actually syncs with reality.
For current business owners who have invested their life’s savings to purchase properties, they can now expect less of a return on their real estate holdings, and more inconvenience to their customers.
Parking – always at a premium – has been reduced significantly with this plan. If memory serves correctly the current mayor ran an election campaign centred around the elimination of parking when the new Fergus library was built. What has changed that makes it okay now to eliminate significantly more spots than those lost back then?
Further to that point, council continues to completely ignore potential solutions for downtown parking problems. A fraction of the $4 million figure contemplated for this project would have gone a long way to securing the former Reliable Motors lands as a long-term municipal investment in downtown commerce and greenspace, but alas, that option is all but off the table. One portion was purchased by a former councillor and the other portion houses the fitness facility operated by the mayor and his wife. That comes across a bit harsh, but those are the facts and despite pleas over the years to consider this option, not a thing happened and now those elected to serve in the municipal interest, sit in the road.
The reality for this stretch of road is that it is a highway. It can be called a street, or a connecting link or whatever fancy name a consultant wants to assign, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a way out of town for trucks and heavy traffic. Period.
That the municipality and province have done a poor job over the years managing the corridor and limiting access points, will only be exacerbated with the introduction of bike lanes. Additional measures to address the safety of cyclists and no doubt slow down traffic generally will compound the aggravation.
Efforts a few years ago to tidy up the southern portion of the connecting link now appear a complete waste of time. Traffic had started to move better but this program will encourage congestion and the use of side streets to avoid the same.
Always folks with solutions it seems, Centre Wellington was more than happy to dump part of their truck traffic problem on its neighbour in Mapleton. Trucks are now encouraged to travel Wellington Road 7, take a sharp right at Alma and return to Highway 6.
Again, just like the affected businesses fronting on St. David Street North, property owners in Alma who knowingly bought on a busy road will now have their property values diminished by a rash of traffic not contemplated when they purchased. These game changer moments, regardless of their perceived or actual benefits, impact others. We find it rude.
As to bikes and trails and active transportation, we think they are fabulous ideals to accommodate and encourage. This proposal however is not ideal and will only add to the traffic woes this township seems unwilling to address.
Although we obviously must appear out of step with the future and how awesome it will be, the fact is traffic has to be moved and the Highway 6 corridor is it for now.