Traffic lights not so simple

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

When the pallet boxes are full of onions or carrots, Marsh Growers need to access the packing plant on Dissette St.

When the pallet boxes are full of onions or carrots, Marsh Growers need to access the packing plant on Dissette St.

The Holland Marsh Growers' Association has asked for a set of traffic lights at Canal Road and Bridge St. in Bradford. Now, the Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Service Board has gone a step further, asking the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury to install the lights and  cover  the estimated $200,000 cost.

The issue: with the removal of the Simcoe Rd. bridge by the County of Simcoe this summer, and the planned removal of the Graham Sideroad bridge within the next few weeks, Holland Marsh growers are being forced to use Canal Road and Bridge St. to get to local packing plants – and making a left turn onto busy Bridge St. is both difficult and dangerous.

Jody Mott, Executive Director of the HMGA, was back in Council on Sept. 5, with another impassioned plea for the lights. “For nine years we've been asking for this light... to keep the public safe, to keep farmers safe,” she said, noting that the community is built around agriculture, which has contributed billions of dollars to the economy. She urged the Town  to support the  farming community, by finding at least a temporary solution.

And it's not only farmers, she said. “How many vehicles not related to farming are using that road?  Anytime the roads are closed anywhere, it's going to get worse and worse.”

“How did the Board decide it should be Bradford that funds it, when we're in a situation that is because of the County and York Region?” Councillor Raj Sandhu  demanded, noting that the issue has come to a head because of Simcoe County's removal of the Simcoe Rd. bridge, and York Region's over-lapping plan to replace the bridge on Graham Sideroad.

Councillor Gary Baynes, a Board member, suggested that the “members from King Twp and York (Region) weren't going to pay for this one... We're paying, or nobody's paying.”

“That's disappointing to hear, because they're party to the issue that's causing this,” said Sandhu. “Why should our residents pay? It's a safety issue but why Bradford? We value the business (of marsh farmers), we value what they do for the area, but so does King.”

Mott said that in a meeting, King Twp asked BWG to take the lead, because “it's our property. It is in Bradford.” The bridge removal “is one factor,” she said, but Marsh farmers have always had problems with the intersection. “Where do we go? What do we do? We have another season coming up.”

Councillors received a  report in Committee of the Whole suggesting that “traffic signals were not justified, as the traffic volume and cross traffic delays from Pumphouse Rd. are quite low” - and warning that installation of traffic lights so close to the Bradford bridge could create new problems.

The report noted, “when properly located, designed and operated, traffic signals can provide for the orderly movement of traffic, reduce the frequency of certain types of collisions... increase the capacity of the minor street (Canal Rd.) and interrupt heavy traffic flows to allow other traffic to enter or cross” - but improper location can lead to more traffic delays, more rear-enders and higher motorist frustration.

Council was given two options: “Do nothing”; or move ahead with signalization as a 2018 budget item. 

Councillors rejected Option 1, but weren't happy with Option 2.

Deputy Mayor James Leduc urged the municipality to explore options other than traffic lights – including the use of Police to direct traffic, at certain times of day.  Lights will “delay traffic coming into Town,” Leduc said. “There's a lot of things in this report that suggest it's not needed,” especially since both bridges will be out for only 3 or 4 months.

“The whole province, north and south of Bradford, have to go up Bridge St. and it's a dog's breakfast. It's a mess,” said Councillor Gary Lamb, noting that it would be impossible to install traffic lights without also lowering the speed limit approaching the bridge on the York Region side. He urged the Town to consider a long-term solution, and “resurrect the Peterman Road option” as an alternative route. It won't solve the next 3 months, he said, but “we really need to look to the future. We need to plan and set it up for the next Council, so that they're putting money away.”

Councillor Peter Ferragine called on staff to provide more information, and solutions. “The farming community has been asking for this, prior to the bridges being out. They're asking for it because they need it.”

“This has been a perplexing problem,” said Mayor Rob Keffer. “We all know how important the Marsh Farmers are to the Town” - but there are 23,000 cars that use Holland/Bridge St., to get between Bradford and Newmarket each day. Lights would “slow things down even worse.”

Council directed staff to come back with more information – including improvements to the Canal Rd/Bridge St. intersection, funding options, and a Peterman Road long-term option,  “to make sure when we do it, we do it right,” said Deputy Mayor Leduc.