November 04, 2009

Reconstructed sideroad shows signs of the times

As published in The Erin Advocate

After 24 years of turning left out of my driveway to go to work every morning, it is not easy to get into the habit of turning right. When I do remember to turn right, I am quickly rewarded with a trip on the newly-paved 5 Sideroad.

It means I can get out of town and over to Mississauga Road via Olde Baseline Road, without driving on the bumpy section of Winston Churchill Boulevard near Terra Cotta. The only local road worse than that was 5 Sideroad before it was paved.

Some residents of Terra Cotta have lobbied to keep that section of Winston Churchill unpaved to reduce commuter traffic, despite safety concerns with the current road. It will not be paved for at least four more years, so they are getting their way for now. I do not have to drive through Terra Cotta any more, and that is just fine with me.

The 5.5-kilometre project on 5 Sideroad includes new culverts, and elevation of the surface in low-lying areas. It is a continuation of Wellington Road 50, (the direct route from Rockwood) linking Trafalgar Road to the paved section of Winston Churchill.

Drivers are confronted with an array of signs on the new road. There is the common warning about Slow Moving Vehicles, and the No Trucks symbol – a relief to those who feared 5 Sideroad would become a gravel truck corridor.

There are four-way stops at the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Lines, and the maximum speed is 60 kph. That may seem low for an open stretch of country road, even if many drivers treat it as a suggestion instead of a law.

Caution has become the norm for posted speed limits, and that is not a bad thing for a road like this. It still has a few hills, and there is only a three-foot shoulder of gravel beside some steep embankments. By such standards, the hilly section of Ninth Line just to the north should have a lower speed limit as well, even though its surface is a few inches wider.

Signs from the Road Watch organization are also prominent, urging people to report incidents of aggressive or dangerous driving. The local group has not been active lately, but there are plans to promote the concept throughout Wellington County.

You can file a report on-line at Your name is not revealed to the driver or owner of the vehicle, who will get a stern letter from police. On second report they will get a phone call, and the third time a personal visit from police. It is a way of educating and applying pressure without issuing tickets or laying charges.

The sideroad signs also proclaim the funding sources: "Building Canada: Federal gas tax funds at work in your community", "Creating Jobs, Building Ontario" and "Canada's Economic Action Plan". Last June the project got a boost of about $330,000 from each of the federal and provincial governments, with the Town providing a matching amount, allowing all the work to be done this year, instead of just half of it.

There has a tempest in the Ottawa teapot recently, after Conservatives printed their own logo on some infrastructure cheques. And there are accusations (denied by the prime minister) that Conservative ridings are getting a higher percentage of stimulus money for large projects.

It is hard to know what to believe, since a complete list of projects has not been made public, and not all the money has been doled out yet. The Liberals were accused of similar manipulations when they were in power – it seems like a Canadian tradition.

Still, when MP Michael Chong talks proudly in his fall newsletter about "Delivering Results" in the form of millions of dollars in funding for his riding, it is worth remembering that he has only delivered our money to us. It is not the result of any special skill or generosity on the part of the MP, his party or the government.

Chong says the new, huge federal deficit is "short-term". It will be interesting to see if that turns out to be a realistic assessment. As everyone knows, running up debt is easy. Paying it off is a real test of political skill.