Truck route discussion dominates recent North Perth Transportation Master Plan public meeting

·12 min read

NORTH PERTH – Discussion at the North Perth Public Information Centre (PIC) for a draft of the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) on Nov. 10 focused heavily on potential routes for the long-awaited truck bypasses around Listowel and active transportation routes such as trails and cycling corridors.

Jill Juhlke, a senior project manager for Paradigm Transportation Solutions, made a presentation giving the background to the TMP. All of the engagement at this PIC was between council members, Juhlke and Manager of Operations, Lyndon Kowch. There were no questions from the public during the meeting.

“I was excited to see the work that has been done on this master plan,” said Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen. “Will there be more information about recommendations around more specific things? I am looking at… active transportation routes and cycling?”

Juhlke said she didn’t want to go into too much detail because she just wanted to give an overview.

“In the active transportation in the TMP it is a rather fleshed-out section and it talks about… the recommendations on the trails themselves,” she said.

During the height of the pandemic when the use of trails was at a high point, Juhlke said they did counts to study patterns of trail usage.

Coun. Allan Rothwell pointed out that in her comments Juhlke mentioned how the TMP is for North Perth roads, but he noted that provincial highways and county roads are part of the local road network.

“The need for potential roundabouts to address traffic concerns, for example, Line 87 and provincial Highway 23 north of Listowel as well as Line 84 and Highway 23 on the south end of Listowel… I’d like to hear your comments about how we can address concerns about the interaction between traffic that is on local North Perth roads (and) provincial highway and county (roads),” he said.

Juhlke said those areas Rothwell specified are parts of connecting link roadways.

“Just to clarify that we don’t address provincial highways as meaning we wouldn’t do something outside the municipality that wasn’t a connecting link,” she said. “That intersection is identified as part of the truck bypass route so… the broad context is at locations where you realize there will be traffic issues going forward or they are recognized today that an acceptable form of traffic control would be a roundabout to mitigate that.”

Andriessen asked if there would be a formal report coming to council about the TMP.

Juhlke said it is coming and they will receive it at least two weeks before a formal presentation so that council members can familiarize themselves with it first.

Mayor Todd Kasenberg said he expected a lot of interest would be regarding the proposed truck bypasses, noting that the file on it has 70 years of history.

“I find myself interested in the question of whether you have considered future residential development… in choosing that route,” he said. “In particular, we’re aware that on Tremaine at this point there is an approved plan of subdivision to the east side of that street that is substantial and whether it would be appropriate to pass trucks down Tremaine given that degree of residential development.”

Juhlke said there have been discussions and it was decided to leave the map with Tremaine Avenue as one of the options on the east side of town.

“It looks very symmetrical and very nice but we are recognizing that doesn’t mean it’s the best implementation… recognizing that development planned for Tremaine Avenue and… there is schools on the west side of Tremaine Avenue,” she said. “This is an area that will have higher pedestrian activity and has been identified as potentially requiring a pedestrian crossover. While it is identified here as a preferred route in those discussions it has come to light that it will likely… be put on the alternative backburner and then would shift our focus to Road 153.”

Coun. Julie Behrns asked how much emphasis was put on the study of roads outside the Listowel area to develop a North Perth road network.

“You mentioned something about a road hierarchy… have you looked at the zoning of lands surrounding the urban centre, not just the subdivisions, but the recreation facilities and things like that to know where traffic may or may not be going,” she said. “It’s one thing to move it through. It’s another thing to have a true understanding of where it is going.”

Juhlke agreed a lot of the TMP is Listowel based.

“It is your urban centre and that’s where the predominant traffic is occurring in the municipality but we are taking the broad overview of looking at the road network within the entirety of the municipality for any kind of classification changes,” she said. “In terms of where people are going… we’re focusing on where there is going to be areas of new development to make sure that we are… providing the appropriate roadway to support that development.”

As follow up to the comment regarding planning in the future, Kowch mentioned that the draft of the new Perth County Official Plan has been used in the development of the TMP.

“We kept a close eye on that as well,” he said. “It helped to indicate areas of growth and areas of change not only in Listowel but also in the Atwood area.”

Rothwell returned focus to the truck bypasses around Listowel, calling them “a high priority.” He asked about the thinking behind bringing forward Tremaine Avenue as the preferred alternative, noting the schools and residential areas along it.

Juhlke said choice goes back to a study from 2016.

“The reason that Tremaine was left on the route is the fact that… you don’t want to make your bypass too long because then it becomes unattractive,” she said. “It is a truck route now. There are trucking companies along there. It is functioning as an arterial roadway to date. That’s its intended function is to move traffic. So it was preferred from a length perspective.”

She also pointed out that Tremaine Avenue is an existing road that is open and operating, whereas Road 153 would need work to be opened for truck traffic.

“So again this is a developing thing so right now we left Tremaine as preferred but recognize there has to be a lot of studies done before you settle on your final bypass routing,” said Juhlke.

Kowch said there is a considerable amount of policy and it will be a several-year process with plenty of discussion about the bypass.

“We looked at other options as well and those could very much be brought forward in a more final product,” he said.

Rothwell is concerned with the width of rural roads and what can be done to ensure the safety of farmers driving equipment and other travellers.

“Is there anything in the TMP… to deal with ensuring roads… whether they be gravel or whether they be narrow country roads, to ensure the safety of our farmers with their equipment as well as traffic?” he asked.

Juhlke said there is a recommendation in the active transportation portion of the TMP that when the municipality is rehabilitating or upgrading the roads it would allow where possible for a one-metre paved shoulder on any paved road.

“What it does is it essentially widens your platform to give you two metres of additional space for accommodating both agricultural vehicles and… as a bike route so it has a dual purpose in doing that,” she said.

Andriessen raised concerns about the intersection of Road 157 and Line 87 on the northeast side of town, pointing out that there may be problems with sightlines if it is part of the bypass.

“Where work should be done to give the best sightlines as possible… things that would have to be looked at,” said Juhlke. “Then you would do the cost-benefit analysis of it so in a case like that you may have extensive growth works that have to take place to give the required sightlines there… but as you go forward through that assessment you realize that some of these have to come off the table because they are cost-prohibitive.”

Behrns said she wondered about Juhlke’s last statement.

“If you already know… that corner is not going to function well as a truck bypass corner, I’m just wondering why you would even suggest it in the TMP if you already know that fundamentally it’s going to not work well or be very cost-prohibitive,” she said. “If you’re bringing forward options I would have thought that a little bit more thought would have been put into how realistic are these because sometimes master plans suggest things that aren’t economically feasible to begin with when there are other options that could have been considered that might have been better.”

Juhlke said that route was brought forward solely trying to reduce the length of the bypass and then understanding that it could be cost-prohibitive.

“However when you would compare it to… the easterly option of Road 152 depending on the amount of work that would have to be undertaken to upgrade that road to bring it up to the standard that would be required to accommodate trucks and the additional part of Line 87 that might have to be upgraded… the cost could be very similar.”

Kowch said he did a review of the technical aspects of the roadways that are in the TMP and there’s a hydro transformer station in the next crossing to the east which he said would be very difficult to move and work with.

“It’s not outside the realm of possibility that when these intersections get looked at, land acquisitions are going to be very much a part of road widenings especially of elevated roads where we simply can’t widen a road unless we own more property on the sides of them,” he said. “Sixty-six feet may not be adequate. We already saw this in some of the work that we’ve done on Road 165.”

Hydro pole lines are another issue Kowch said they may have to deal with.

“Some of them have been placed very tight to the existing roadway,” he said. “The entire hydro pole line on some of these sections will have to be moved at very significant cost and very significant time and planning in working with the utility.”

The bypass work will be easier on the west side of Listowel because a lot of the infrastructure has been developed already.

“Just to sort of follow that to its natural conclusion, what I’m hearing in general from my colleagues is that there is interesting seeing, at least for the proposed possibilities for bypasses, the obstacles or barriers,” said Kasenberg. “I know that we’re not going to get on to engineering level or feasibility study level through the process of finalizing the TMP, but I think councillors are saying and I’m agreeing with them that at least having that… sense of what the barriers are for each of the options is rather important.”

Kowch said they would include that information in the TMP process.

“I had the same questions and same comments because I have a greater understanding of what lies on the ground at these bypass areas but… it is a bypass that is designed for… future traffic as well to 2041,” he said. “What that means is the timing is so essential, a bypass needs to be as short and efficient as possible and so those roads are chosen on a timing study as a major priority, not so much a technical engineering process… we have to keep in mind the bypass locations are listed for that efficiency.”

Juhlke said that the timing using Tremaine for a southern bypass would add six minutes to travel time, but Road 153 doubles it to an additional 12 minutes of travel time.

“That’s not looking as attractive to the trucks for them to go 12 minutes out of the way because… they have to meet certain delivery targets, so it’s a combination of making sure that it’s short enough to be attractive and easy to enforce as well,” she said.

Rothwell said that through the longer term he suspects significant build-outs on the east side of Listowel.

“Frankly I think it’s short-sighted to look at that – I look at Orangeville being an example of a truck bypass which years ago seemed to work well but now is clogged with development which makes it frankly less appealing as a truck route option,” he said. “I think we need to learn from that sort of experience to make sure that the truck route is going to last a little bit longer than the prescribed time here of 2041… I’m just concerned about bringing a truck route in right to the edge of Listowel right now.”

Kowch said they will be reviewing comments from the PIC and if time permits they may consult a civil engineering firm to comment on some of those technical issues and some of the costs.

Andriessen asked what the time frame for moving forward with the truck bypass will be.

Kowch said there is a likelihood of a five-year window before any implementation of a truck bypass and he indicated that’s mainly because of the land acquisition.

Andriessen asked if this work would be totally funded by the municipality.

“I’d have to say that wouldn’t be fully known at this point,” said Kowch. “There could be funding dollars available but with the majority of the roads being under our authority entirely would mean that would be a cost borne by the municipality… that’s the way I’d be budgeting it and putting it in front of council in a five-year plan. I can look at that more closely as I put together a capital budget that would show what this all means over the next five-year window.”

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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