Highway 6 improvements a waste of money
The Ministry of Transport of Ontario wants to "upgrade" highway 6 through Guelph by closing a number of interchanges and raising the speed limit through town. At a cost estimated to be over $50 million, Kortright, my road - an arterial - will lose partial access to highway 6, College Ave will be changed to a fly-over, and Stone Road will get an interchange worthy of the 401/400 interchange. Laird and Claire will be combined into one deluxe interchange, and Wellington Rd 34 will have its intersection turned into an exit around a kilometre north of the road.
Why all this work? Well, the MTO figures highway 6 should be built to 400-series standards. As was pointed out in multiple presentations at yesterday's special city council meeting specifically called to discuss this issue, the interchange at highways 6, 7, and 24 also known as Wellington St., built a mere ten years ago at a cost of around $20 million, does not meet these 400-series standards and would have to be torn down and redone for the highway to be certifiable under Ontario's inflexible 400-series rules.
This rather absurd notion that highway 6 must meet 400-series standards means that the speed limit will be 100 km/h, and design speed will be 130 km/h. This makes merge and exit lanes longer and means that in the Kortright-Stone-College block, only Stone can get a full interchange, diverting Kortright and College traffic over surface streets far too small to handle it. As was pointed out repeatedly last night, designating highway 6 as a parkway would give it an 80 km/h speed limit - an extension of a full two minutes travel time to drivers going the length of the highway - and allow less expensive diamond interchanges at each interchange instead of full cloverleafs at, well, one of them.
The relationship between the sudden urgency to these upgrades to a highway that has been planned since nearly 20 years before I was born and the recent announcement of a new 400-series highway 7 between the north end of Guelph and Kitchener is not entirely clear, but it is not likely a coincidence. Making highways 6 and 7 a true limited access highway connecting the 401 to highways 7 and 8 in Kitchener, largely bypassing and hurting a great swath of Guelph, has become a major priority.
Further south, at Laird, the idea is to spend huge amounts of money building an overpass and interchange system to service an as-yet non-existent industrial park. Indeed, the MTO's "preferred plan" shows a major road going to the west of the highway off the exit ramp that quite literally ends in a field without connecting to anything. The notion here is that the industrial park will have increased truck traffic and trucks may not ever be held up at intersections lest our economy collapse.
But it begs another important question. This industrial park lies within approximately 5 miles of not one, but three different railways, including the city owned Guelph Junction Railway, Canadian Pacific, and the Goderich-Exeter, which connects primarily to Canadian National. For the cost of this one interchange, it would likely be possible to connect the GJR to the industrial park and reduce the number of trucks coming out, and change the type of businesses that will seek to use the industrial park, as well as feed transport revenues back into city coffers, an income feedback not present with trucks. Each freight car can replace between two and five trucks, and such a line could also be used in the future when Canada wakes up to the need for passenger rail service to provide such service to that industrial park and surrounding community.
For the minimum $50 million price tag associated with this set of upgrades - which are not the only upgrades planned for the Hanlon, there are still three more interchanges north of the Speed River that will go through this process - what will we get? A new industrial park with no rail service. A Guelph Transit that will still be woefully underfunded. And continued piss poor passenger rail service. If we put that money into those instead, I have to ask, would the highway upgrades still even be needed?
Posted at 09:07 on January 15, 2008
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