Puslinch council takes close look at Aberfoyle traffic, lobbies county to consider people as it widens roads

PUSLINCH – The recurring theme during Puslinch council’s Jan. 19 meeting was making Aberfoyle a safe, walkable, liveable community and a quaint shopping destination for visitors.

It started with discussion about the new crosswalk on Brock Road in Aberfoyle and ended with a plea to Wellington County’s roads committee to consider the quality of life of the people who live in the communities affected by road and intersection changes, and not focus solely on the movement of goods and people.

Discussion of Aberfoyle began when CAO Glenn Schwendinger updated council on the crosswalk at Brock Road and Old Brock Road.

Brock Road is also Wellington Road 46 and it slices the village of Aberfolye in half, already making it difficult for local residents to get around town on foot.

Truck traffic and commuter traffic are issues, particularly for children walking to school and the township and county worked together to install safety features at the intersection.

Aberfoyle Public School is located on Old Brock Road and the township has added drop-off zones and on-street parking regulations to make that street safer for dropping off and picking up students. Last fall it hired a crossing guard to help on Brock Road.

On its end, the county added sidewalks, signs, pavement markings and traffic lights, but problems persist, Schwendinger explained.

Some pedestrians attempt to cross Brock Road outside the crosswalk; some drivers turning right from Old Brock Road onto Brock Road don’t check for pedestrians in the crosswalk before completing the turn; and speeding and volume of traffic on Brock Road are ongoing concerns.

Schwendinger said the township has discussed this with the county, and it has taken the following actions:

  • adjusted the timing at the lights so the amber, red and walk signals are longer than standard;
  • installed ladder markings at the crosswalk; and
  • posted two “no right turn on red” signs at Old Brock Road, two “school zone” signs on Brock Road, two digital radar speed signs along Brock Road, and oversized 30 km/hr speed limit signs through the area.

As well, staff have recommended that Aberfoyle be one of 16 locations in the county designated as a Community Safety Zone.

The matter has to be approved by the county roads committee but Mayor James Seeley, who sits on that committee, was confident it would pass.

That designation would allow the county to adopt a bylaw to increase fines in the zone. And being designated is required before electronic speed enforcement can be considered in the future – something council would like to see.

Schwendinger said staff have also requested more OPP enforcement through the village, especially during school hours.

Councillor Jessica Goyda suggested holding a “safety blitz” with county, township, school staff and OPP to drive home the new safety measures and council agreed. Staff will follow up with the necessary parties to make that happen.

“We’re talking about kids crossing a four-lane highway to get to school,” she said. “It’s upsetting to see people are disregarding that.”

Councillors were equally passionate when they learned that a road diet is likely not in the cards for Aberfoyle from the county’s point of view.

A road diet is when the number of lanes of traffic is reduced as a traffic calming measure.

Dillon Consulting was hired by the county to study the impact of a road diet on Brock Road between Wellington Road 34 and Gilmour Road.

The study examined the impact of turning the stretch of road into one lane of traffic in each direction, plus a centre turn lane and a parking lane.

Currently Brock Road is five lanes wide between Highway 401 and MacLean Road, narrows to four lanes from MacLean to Wellington Road 34, and becomes a two-lane road from Wellington Road 34 to Maltby Road, where Brock Road becomes Gordon Street in the City of Guelph.

The study looked at current traffic volumes and peak hours and used a mathematical calculation to forecast future traffic volumes and patterns given anticipated growth in Guelph and Guelph/Eramosa, the new mid-block interchange on the Hanlon Expressway and the new Morriston bypass.

It also considered previous studies.

Paul Bumstead of Dillon Consulting said the data indicates the section from Wellington Road 34 to Maltby Road is already over capacity and should be widened, although not for at least 10 years.

And while the Hanlon will be a more convenient option than Brock Road for many Guelphites heading to the 401, it would be an out-of-the-way diversion for those in east Guelph.

Bumstead predicted there will still be steady traffic through Aberfoyle and the need for a four-lane roadway will continue.

He said narrowing Brock Road would cause traffic to spill onto other roadways that aren’t designed to be major arteries and would only add to congestion, driver frustration, and potentially more accidents.

And he said he doesn’t expect changes to Highway 6 – either on the Hanlon Expressway or the Morriston bypass – will divert enough traffic from Aberfoyle to justify a road diet.

Councillor Sara Bailey wanted to know if there could be traffic “incentives” that would encourage more people to take more expedient routes.

“Can we design a diversion so people will take it?” she asked. “Maybe that means making a crowded road through our village.”

Seeley didn’t like that most of Aberfoyle’s traffic troubles are caused by vehicles commuting from Guelph.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer called it “two visions bumping up against each other.”

“Our vision is that Aberfoyle becomes a destination to shop and walk in. That is bumping against the county’s vision of moving vehicles efficiently. How do we align these divergent interests?” he asked.

Wellington County engineer Don Kudo said making Brock Road four lanes won’t happen until the mid-block interchange is complete and there is time to get an accurate read on how that changes traffic patterns.

“If significant changes would support an area study, that would go to the roads committee,” Kudo said.

Goyda noted that the sole objective of widening Brock Road is to afford faster travel for residents of Guelph “at the detriment of the community of Aberfoyle.

“These things don’t get recognized in your report.”

Seeley said it starts with the vision statement of the roads committee, which focuses of moving goods and people.

Goyda put forward a motion that the roads committee include socio-economic factors and quality of life of residents in its vision statement.

“It’s an integral part of the whole conversation. It can’t be just about moving traffic,” she said.

“It has to be about the people who live there.”

Council unanimously supported her motion and also agreed to circulate it to member municipalities.