MTO delays study of Highway 417/34 intersection until 2013
An environmental assessment (EA) promised by the Ministry of Transportation for the intersection at Highway 417, Highway 34 and Tannery Road has been delayed a year.
Last October, following pressure from local politicians, the MTO announced it would be "starting an EA in early 2012 at this location" and considering both a roundabout and traffic signals.
However, a spokesperson confirmed last week that the ministry's project team is still identifying the work to be included in the EA process, which is now scheduled for early 2013.
"The consultant acquisition will start in summer 2012, with the EA starting in early 2013," said Brandy Duhaime, communications coordinator for the MTO's eastern region.
"The EA process will include public consultation. Residents and stakeholders can expect a public information centre to be held in 2013."
Asked why the MTO decided to delay the study, Duhaime said the ministry's projects have to be considered within a province-wide context and can be affected by a number of factors.
"All projects are prioritized provincially and are subject to funding and required approvals," she noted, adding, "The ministry is committed to making the improvements at Highway 34/Tannery Road and is now moving forward with the initial steps to start the EA."
The environment assessment would still consider "operational improvements," such as a roundabout or traffic signals. The preferred alternative, however, will be determined through planning, design and public consultation. Local residents can expect to see the dates for those consultations advertised in advance, Duhaime noted.
The average daily traffic volume at the intersection is 5,100 vehicles, which is considered "relatively low volume" by the MTO. Still, the intersection has been the site of numerous accidents and has raised the ire of local politicians.
Ontario Provincial Police statistics indicate there were nine motor-vehicle collisions at the intersection between September 2009 and August 2011.
"There is no other location in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry that has this high rate of repeat occurrence," North Glengarry Councillor Eric MacSweyn said last year. "This location is still a huge safety concern and requires re-examining."
The MTO did make improvements to the intersection in 2010, including new signage, and will examine those changes as part of the EA next year. Ministry officials are also expected to consult with local townships as well as the OPP.
"The ministry's review of this intersection does not indicate that there is an operational concern with the truck stop located off of Tannery Road," Bob Nichols, senior media liaison, told The Review last year. "Rather, the ministry has identified that vehicles are failing to make a full stop on the Highway 417 eastbound off-ramp and/or at Tannery Road."
MacSweyn, for his part, would like to see changes made as soon as possible: "There are also incidents that do not have statistics. I call these near-misses and most local people have a story of at least one. Near-misses are not a statistic but make for regular conversation around the coffee table.
"I believe these growing near-misses are indicators for motor vehicle collisions, and in time, the most serious motor vehicle collision is inevitable. This intersection is still a serious problem."