January 09, 2013

Growth will increase pressure for bypass

As published in The Erin Advocate

If you think traffic in downtown Erin is heavy now, imagine what it will be like with a few thousand more residents and a new industrial zone in the north end of the village. There will have to be an alternative route for heavy trucks and other vehicles that are travelling through.

As a result of increasing local and regional traffic by 2032, intersections at the north and south of the village are expected to exceed their capacity at the afternoon peak time, resulting in noticeable delays, according to a traffic study completed for Solmar Development Corp.

The study, which is available on the Town website (www.erin.ca), also recommends new traffic lights at County Road 124 & Winston Churchill Boulevard, at County Road 124 and Tenth Line (on the north side of the Solmar subdivision) and at County Road 124 and Erinville Drive (south of Tim Hortons).

Over the next 20 years, traffic volumes are expected to increase by 1% per year on Winston Churchill, County Road 124 and County Road 52 (Bush Street). An increase of 2% per year is expected on Dundas Street and Shamrock Road.

Wellington County has no current plans for major improvements to its arterial roads in the Erin village area, but its 2012 Development Charge Background Study reports that traffic projections show a need to eventually widen or add more passing lanes on County Road 124 between Erin and Guelph.

Within Erin village, the County study says projected traffic growth "would require widening to a four-lane cross-section by the 2031 horizon", but says this may not be feasible "due to potential impacts to existing development" (ie. downtown businesses).

"An alternative solution might be to provide a truck by-pass road along a new alignment around Erin. The viability of this solution could only be properly validated/confirmed through the completion of an Environmental Assessment."

A bypass to the north of the village has been studied, but never acted upon. Bypasses to the south would also be possible, involving Wellington, Peel Region and Halton Region.

Drivers coming west towards Erin village on County Road 124 could be directed to turn south on an upgraded Winston Churchill Boulevard. They could then use County Road 52 to reconnect with 124, though intersection improvements would be needed at the south end of the village.

If drivers instead continued south on Winston Churchill to the Erin-Halton Hills Townline (Sideroad 32/County Road 42), then west to Ballinafad, they could turn south or north on Trafalgar Road. Or they could continue all the way to Crewson's Corners, joining Highway 7 on the far side of Acton.

The Niagara Escarpment Commission expects that proposing a haul route on 32 Sideroad will generate "a lot of push-back" from residents, and that the intersection at Ballinafad would need major improvements.

In this context, it is interesting (and instructive) to read about the efforts of Halton Region to find a solution for similar (but more severe) truck problems in Acton. An update to their Transportation Master Plan in 2011 proposes a solution for Acton that could assist Erin.

"Regional Road 25 and Highway 7 through downtown Acton will be over capacity by 2031 requiring one additional lane in each direction," the report said. "Heavy truck traffic is part of the problem in this area and has also resulted in safety concerns in the downtown area. "

They considered a southern bypass, a northern bypass and the prospect of widening to four lanes through downtown Acton. The recommendation is to build a new northern four- lane alternate route starting at Highway 7, going north along the Fourth Line. It would turn west along 32 Sideroad (the Erin-Halton Hills boundary), around the north side of Acton, and reconnect with Highway 7 at Dublin Line or Crewson's Corners.

The Erin and Acton bypasses could have a common section on 32 Sideroad, with the potential for cost sharing.

"While this alternative will have greater effects on the agricultural community and natural environment, the socio economic effects of a widened Highway 7/Regional Road 25 through downtown Acton and the capital costs to do so are so great that they outweigh the negative effects of the northern alternate route," the report said.

The Town of Halton Hills wants Halton Region to take over responsibility for Winston Churchill, south of 32 Sideroad, since it carries "a significant amount of long-distance traffic that is not locally generated or destined." They also want Halton to take over 32 Sideroad if it is to become a major arterial route.

Ted Drewlo, Manager of Engineering Services for Halton Hills, said his staff found that "traffic volumes are forecast to increase and could triple by 2031" on 32 Sideroad.

Peel Region is already planning to reconstruct the unpaved section of Winston Churchill from Olde Baseline Road to Terra Cotta. They are also undertaking a study to "confirm and identify priority routes within Peel, having regard for connectivity with key external routes". Peel Engineer Gary Kocialek said they "will be looking at the potential upgrades that Halton is considering for Ballinafad Road".