Swing and a miss

Like most people, we have a thing for the underdog, especially in sports.

Professional players are at the top of their game, typically. 

Amateurs and the inexperienced are a whole other matter. Spectators, usually family and friends, cheer and celebrate the smaller plays in the grand scheme of things. 

But there are moments where “little Johnny” causes fans to hold their breath as a big pop fly waits to be caught or a home run hit. 

In Hollywood, little Johnny almost always wins the day. But in real life, things don’t always work out. Sometimes fans and little Johnny are disappointed.

That’s pretty much how we feel about the recent closure of Highway 6 in Fergus and its inevitable redevelopment.

Despite pre-election conversations with members of the new council and assurances that a good hard look would be taken on this ill-conceived plan, not a word was said. The destruction of the only significant traffic corridor through town is underway.

If that weren’t enough, the funding partner – your friend and mine, Doug Ford’s government – said nothing either. A big sign confirms that tale, propped up haphazardly on the miniscule front lawn of an iconic heritage building. Back in the day, MTO would have much to say on a project that impacts the flow of goods and smart transportation.

The local BIA said something apparently. What exactly we don’t know since it had little impact. The plan to constrict long-term traffic flow is steam rolling ahead and in its wake, 25 parking spots for desperate store owners will be wiped out. 

The Chamber of Commerce? Crickets from what we can tell on a project that will have great long-term effect on the business community. We imagine the prospect of paid parking will get similar attention as that process winds its way through the system. Some voice for business that lot has become.

The general public and interested parties who attended meetings and filled out surveys were essentially ignored. About 16% thought bike lanes were important on this stretch of road. The balance offered up thoughtful concerns about traffic flow, parking and sensible queries we will paraphrase as  “what is the long-term plan?”

Of course, that survey, now horribly dated, happened long before two residential projects of consequence were considered, applications for a separate school were submitted, two new commercial buildings proposed, another new fast-food franchise built and a further multi-level building pending approval.  

All of these changes suggest a re-think of the Highway 6 project was not only in order, but absolutely necessary if we are to accommodate traffic in this town.

There would have been nothing wrong with completing works underground and re-paving the roadway in its current form until a larger plan unfolded. Yes, it is often cheaper in the long run to do a project in its entirety, but that assumes a comprehensive approach. 

As it stands, there is no plan.

There is no bypass on the books. Even if that were the case, there are no guarantees that such a project would be executed in such a timeframe that would accommodate all the new development in town. Consider for a moment Morriston or from Highway 24 south to Guelph or Highway 7 east to Kitchener. Plans there have been decades in the making.

The truck traffic on Highway 6 has been re-routed to county roads. Most curious though is how politicians have traded a highway maintained and paid for by residents across Ontario for county roads paid by local businesses and homeowners of Wellington County. That is something we don’t understand.

Even the start date of this project is odd – minutes in a literal sense before the Victoria Day long weekend. Why? There was nothing stopping the contractor from starting a few days later and letting store owners and restaurants have one last long weekend in business. We suspect no one even thought about that.

Swing and a miss … that’s the understatement of our times.