January 25, 2018

Erin truck bypass would cost more than $11 million

An updated estimate on the cost of a possible bypass to divert trucks north of Erin village was discouraging news for members of town council – and now they want an estimate on a bypass to the south.
A report from County Engineer Don Kudo said a recent review of the 17 Sideroad – Trafalgar Road route projects the cost at $10.7 million – a huge increase from the initial estimate of $2.6 million when the initial study was done in 1999 by Dillon Consulting.
Truck traffic in downtown Erin has been a problem for decades.
Because Trafalgar near 17 SR is on an incline, a bypass would have to include climbing lanes, through lanes and turning lanes. A new intersection would be needed on County Road 124 at the north end of Erin village, along with reconstruction and widening of 17 Sideroad.
The $10.7 million estimate does not include property acquisition, utility relocations, culvert replacement, a new bridge or design/engineering costs.
 “It looks like this has been created, to be blunt, so that it’s a no-brainer to say No,” said Councillor Matt Sammut, at council’s Jan. 16 meeting.
“Trafalgar is an acceptable road. I do understand the corner would have to be adjusted, and I understand that the corner of 124 would have to be changed. But nearly 11 million dollars, plus HST? I shake my head when I read this. 17 Sideroad probably would require some work.”
Mayor Al Alls said it would be “major” work, and a “struggle” because of the disruption to residents of 17 Sideroad. He speculated that once a cross-walk is installed this spring, truckers might be looking for alternate routes.
Councillor Jeff Duncan said he heard one merchant say he would be willing to hire someone at minimum wage to press the cross-walk button all day long. “That’s a lot cheaper than $10 million,” he said.
Sammut said the lack of a truck bypass is causing serious harm to the town.
“It’s this council and future councils’ job to create the best environment for businesses to grow. My guess is that if I asked a lot of shoppers, they’d say they don’t like darting in front of trucks. It absolutely impacts tourism. It’s not an enjoyable experience to walk downtown and every third vehicle is a tractor-trailer.”
The estimate for the northern bypass includes alignment shifts due to property conflicts and disturbance of environmentally sensitive areas.
 “I don’t think the figures are exaggerated,” said Als, predicting a bridge on 17 Sideroad would also have to be reconstructed.
Als said if the bypass route became a county road, the Town of Erin would have to take responsibility (and pay the costs) for Road 124 (Main Street) through Erin village.
The original cost estimate for a northern bypass was revised to $3.9 million in 2000. After that, when it became clear that a bypass would not be built in the near future, the county proceeded with reconstruction of Main Street downtown.
Alls said it would be less expensive to have a bypass to the south of the village. Trucks travelling west on Road 124 could turn south on Winston Churchill, then use Road 52 (Bush Street) to reconnect with 124 at the south end of the village.
Council agreed to request a cost estimate from the county for that route. Sammut immediately voiced concern. He lives in that area, where many residents oppose the proposed expansion of a nearby gravel pit.
“That’s a key cog for commuter traffic, and how much truck traffic is there from the pits – a significant amount,” he said.
“And now we’re thinking of adding further truck traffic? You’ve got four streets coming into the main road. You would have to adjust totally Bush Street coming up Main Street, because cars are flying around that corner. There’s no way it could work without significant adjustment.
“You want an uprising? You are risking an uprising at the south end of town already.”