“We will send a very strongly worded letter,” said Warden Pierre Leroux of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR). “The first accident will be their responsibility.”
Warden Leroux’s comment referred to a report from UCPR Public Works Director Jérémie Bouchard during the October 14 UCPR committee of the whole session. Bouchard updated council about the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s (MoT) plans for rehabilitation work on the Hawkesbury overpass on County Road 17.
Bouchard’s report noted that the MoT “unfortunately” refuses to change its proposed reconstruction design plan for the overpass. It serves as a traffic overpass above Highway 34, which connects Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill. Off-and-on turning ramps link County Road 17 with Highway 34.
The MoT’s plan for the Hawkesbury overpass proposes replacing the curving turnoff ramps with standard traffic-controlled intersection connections from Highway 34 to County Road 17. The intersections would be at 90-degree angles to the county road.
The UCPR, the Town of Hawkesbury, and Champlain Township have all expressed opposition to the proposal. Their concern is that the change would create a dangerous traffic control situation at the overpass, including the potential for fatal accidents.
The three local governments have argued that the traffic design change would not provide adequate turning space for tractor-trailer transports. They also argue that the timing limit for traffic-control signals may not be long enough to allow a transport truck driver to negotiate a turn.
Both Mayors Paula Assaly of Hawkesbury and Normand Riopel of Champlain Township expressed “surprise” that the ministry is ignoring the traffic hazard potential of its plan. Riopel wondered why the MoT engineering staff would devise a design “that causes this kind of problem.”
“This is not the end of the issue,” said Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin of Alfred-Plantagenet Township.
He noted that the UCPR should find out if the MoT has done any traffic accident risk studies of the plan, including how it could affect the accident rate further up the road at the Cameron Street and Tupper Street intersections. He also wondered if the provincial government expects to save money on the overpass reconstruction costs with the MoT’s design?
UCPR administration will prepare “strongly-worded” letters for approval at the October 28 council session to send to both the MOT and to MPP Amanda Simard.
At press time, we had been unable to reach an MOT representative.