August 06, 2014

More delays for rebuilding Winston Churchill

As published in The Erin Advocate

An ongoing series of roadblocks continues to delay reconstruction of Winston Churchill Boulevard north of Terra Cotta – a project that would benefit Erin commuters, but one in which they seem to have little influence.

Paving of this short stretch of gravel road has been discussed for many years, with Peel Region advancing a “final” plan at a public information session five years ago. Improvements would make the road safer by lowering the hill south of Ballinafad Road, but there has been opposition from Terra Cotta residents who want to discourage commuter traffic through their village.

Construction was to have been last year, but with a slow approval process, budget deferrals and ongoing concerns about costs and impact on the environment, it now appears that it won’t happen until 2017.

Peel Region maintains this border road and will pay half the cost of reconstruction (estimated at $4.1 million in 2012), with Wellington County and Halton Region (or Halton Hills) sharing the balance. It is Peel’s only unpaved regional road.

Erin Mayor Lou Maieron says Wellington expects Winston Churchill to be “our main north-south arterial road heading into the GTA”, and so he has protested the recent installation of stop signs at Olde Base Line Road (where the gravel starts) and at Ballinafad Road.

Maieron says the preferred commuter route appears to be south on Winston Churchill, then east on King Street through Terra Cotta to Mississauga Road, Hwy 10 and Hwy 410. Drivers in the south part of Erin can access Winston Churchill more easily now that 5 Sideroad is paved. Caledon Mayor Marolyn Morrison has said that those drivers should be turning east on Olde Base Line Road to get to Mississauga Road, instead of going through Terra Cotta.

“Erin’s population has the highest commuting rate in Wellington County (80+%), mostly travelling south for employment,” said Maieron, in an email message.

“If Winston Churchill is truly to be a county/regional arterial road – i.e. a road that moves goods and people efficiently and effectively – then reducing the speed limit and installing new all way stops appears to be contra-indicated. This will greatly reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of this costly regional road re-development.

“We would appreciate seeing Winston Churchill upgraded as soon as possible. Currently Erin residents are utilizing a myriad of local roads and gravel road combinations to arrive to Highway 410, and most of these roads are not County Roads. A good arterial road system is paramount to achieving greater progressive economic development for Erin.”

The project already has approval through an Environmental Assessment (EA), and design work that include storm water controls and avoidance of sensitive environmental areas is about 60% complete. But the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) has lodged a new objection, saying development cannot be allowed in the habitat of endangered plants and animals.

“This conflict is as a result of new endangered species legislation enacted subsequent to the EA approval,” said Peel Project Manager Solmaz Zia. “Peel staff is planning to meet senior staff at NEC to explore other options to move this project forward. It is scheduled to complete the detailed design in the winter/spring 2015, property acquisition / utility relocation in 2015 & 2016 and commence the construction in 2016/2017.”

Then there is the complication of getting all the partners to agree on the cost. Peel and Wellington do not appear to have a problem with it, but in Halton there is concern.

“This is a complicated piece of road and I would love to see it finished,” said Halton Hills Regional Councillor Clark Somerville in a recent email to area politicians. 

“The section in Halton Hills was going to cost the Town over 2.5 million to rebuild (it may have been more!) for a road that has over 80% of its traffic originating in Peel. I know the Town has been in discussions with Halton Region to see if we can get this one done. It can’t be to the present suggested standard as it is beyond what we can afford for it.”