Residents pack community centre to see Highway 401 interchange options

Proposed Highway 401 improvements could mean massive changes for local residents.

The Puslinch Community Centre was packed with residents on Dec. 8, as they discovered the preferred alternatives for Highway 401 and several interchanges between Hespeler Road in Cambridge and the Halton Region boundary.

It was the second in a series of meetings regarding long-term plans for the highway. The first sessions was in 2009.

Residents had concerns over the proposed changes taking place through wetlands and forests – in addition to the Morriston bypass’ proximity to residential areas.

Although the scope of the project is huge, the biggest impact to residents would be a proposed extension of the Hanlon Expressway to cross Highway 401, coupled with the connections to a proposed Highway 6 bypass around Morriston.

Brock Road south of Aberfoyle would see a major shift, with the preferred option including the road south of Highway 401 swinging west to a roundabout, which would divide traffic between those heading to Highway 6 south or to Morriston.

Roger Ward, project manager with of the planning and design section of the Ministry of Transportation, explained this a study of the Highway 401 corridor from Hespeler Road to the Halton Region boundary.

Within that 26 kilometre stretch of road, “We are looking at the ultimate requirements of the highway from the 2031 horizon and beyond.” What is currently being proposed is five lanes in each direction, with HOV [high occupancy vehicle] lanes down the centre median.

In addition, 11 bridges need to be replaced, Ward said. He said generally this would be the first major reconstruction of the highway since it was first built.

Ward noted in some sections, the underlying concrete “has deteriorated enough that we need to rip it all out and reconstruct the entire road bed.”

He cited the public information meetings held in 2009 that considered various alternatives. With the input from those meetings, the alternatives have been refined with an analysis and evaluation.

Ward added the intent of the most recent meeting is to share preferred alternatives for the highway corridor as well as the interchange areas. Ward said that is a long-term planning process.

“We’re here today to get input from the public and other stakeholders.”

With that information, plans will be adjusted and filed for Environmental Assessment approval.

“It still needs to go through another stage of more detailed design before we ever get to construction,” he said.

None of the work is programmed right now; it is not a funded program, he added.

However, “Planning now is allowing us to make wise investment decisions for the future. It is part of  the long-term planning steps which need to occur.

“It’s a massive project. It would take many years to construction and would likely be broken down into a series of projects. Each of those would be multi-year projects,” Ward said.

Hanlon Expressway

Ward explained the preferred alternative takes into account the environmental assessment of the approved Highway 6 design. One of the factors was improving traffic to and from the Cambridge area.

But concerns exist about the potential impact to wetland areas, which resulted in the current alternative. That is also tied in with the proposed Highway 6 bypass of Morriston.

“When we were looking at the Highway 6, Brock Road interchange, we took into account the Highway 6 bypass of Morriston that is planned.”

He said the opportunity of having to replace the Brock Road structure, “allows us to look at alternative configurations to the interchange.”

The Highway 6 bypass is not a funded project at this stage either, Ward explained. “But we have been moving forward, so we have EA approval now [for Highway 6]. We have a designated alignment which we can protect from development in that area, and we can start to acquire properties.”

Brock Road interchange

In the preferred alternative for that exchange, Ward explained the expansion of the Highway 401 corridor will necessitate replacement of the Brock Road bridge.

That allowed the exploration of different options to re-configure an alignment of the road.

Ward said a number of different ideas were explored in conjunction with a traffic pattern survey undertaken earlier this summer.

“It really helped us to understand the traffic patterns in this area – where vehicles are coming from and going to. That enabled us to come up with a design to allow a free flow of movement from Brock Road to the interchange of the new Highway 6.”

In turn, the roundabout along the way would divert the majority of traffic away from Morriston – which is the whole purpose of having the Highway 6 bypass, Ward said. It would mean traffic would not need to go through Morriston and create congestion.

“The roundabout could act as a gateway feature into the community of Morriston.”

“It still allows easy access in and out of Morriston, but is not funneling people through the community, as it would have done in some of the other designs.”

The Highway 6 bypass will also be four lanes, instead of being limited to the two lanes through Morriston. The majority of traffic coming up or down Highway 6 is not necessarily destined for each part of Highway 6 – they get to Highway 401 and want to stay on it.

“It also helped knowing the number of vehicles that continue up Highway 6 and stay on Brock Road to get into the eastern parts of Guelph. Those numbers are quite substantial.”

Staff available for questions included people from the Ministry of Transportation, designers McCormick Rankin Corporation and Ecoplans Ltd.

Click here for maps of changes at Brock Road and the Hanlon Expressway.

Additional information is online at