Truck bypass debate parked due to costs

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Executive committee opt to take no action after reviewing four options which would push truck traffic off Front Street

The Operations and Facilities Executive Committee agreed to keep the truck route designation on Front Street as an alternate route to Scott Street. They also accepted the information relating to the construction of a bypass with no additional action.

The Planning and Development Executive Committee was considering relocating the truck routes upon receiving a letter from Riverfront Condominiums and La Verendrye Hospital.

The letter, signed by Jan Beazley, Riverfront Condominiums secretary, Grace Cridlnad, Riverfront Condominiums president and supported by Henry Gauthier, Riverside Health Care Facilities CEO, requests that the trucks route be changed to go back to Scott Street and off Front Street.

Gauthier’s letter of support said vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists travel along Front Street to access the main entrance and emergency department at La Verendrye Hospital.

“Clearly, having large transports [travelling] along this route increases the risk to the public and staff accessing medical services in Fort Frances,” Gautheir said in the letter.

The current truck route coming from east of town goes through Front Street, with Scott Street being an alternate route. 

Four truck bypass options have been compiled by Cody Vangel, chief building official and municipal planner. The four options, Vangel said in his report, have their own varying challenges.

The first option would see Eighth Street connected from Minnie Avenue north westerly towards Rainy Crest.

Vangel said in his report that provided the significant railway traffic in this area and the need for two crossings in close proximity to each other, conflict would likely arise between the two crossings, and it is anticipated that this would cause more of a hindrance on traffic flow.

Travis Rob, operations and facilities manager, said this option is not feasible because with train traffic passing through town over to Rainier, Minn. daily, the wait time at the two crossings would be too long for most traffic to bother using. Because this option is unfeasible, Rob wrote in his report to the Operations and Facilities Executive Committee, a cost estimate was not completed.

The second option would see Eighth Street East at Rainy Crest head northeast along the CN rail line that heads towards Thunder Bay. The report states that this option would require the acquisition of parts of three pieces of land and the potential for a home to be relocated.

Further consultation with CN and the Ontario Ministry of Transport would be necessary to determine if any further acquisitions would be necessary when accessing this bypass point from Highway 11.

Rob said this option would cost the town $30 million, which includes roadway construction, property procurement, rail crossings, signals and engineering. 

The third option would see the same proposed bypass at the east end of Town as the second option. However, it would include about a 2.2 km extension to the west limit of Eighth Street West and then southerly down a new roadway out to the Highway west of Pit Road 2.

In the report, Vangel said this option would see the same property acquisition constraints as option 2, though this provides the town with some flexibility for a grade-separated crossing at the west end of town as the Town owns an abundance of land there.

Rob is estimating this option to cost about $45 million, which does not include the purchase of a grade-separated rail crossing.

From a land use planning perspective, Vangel wrote in the report, this option is more intriguing than the second option as this could open access points to an abundance of landlocked town owned property at the west end of town which can pave the way for future industry, varying development, and expansion.

The fourth option would see the same alignment in the second and third options for the northeast extension of Eighth Street altered to detour around private property and maintain the boundary on town owned property. Vangel wrote in the report that this option would likely intersect some of the existing Eighth Street walking trails which could be addressed to ensure continuity in the trail system.

Rob said depending on the implementation of this option, $2 million could be added to either the cost of the second or the third option.

Coun. Rick Weidenhoeft said the drawings and plans may be feasible in the future, but that the town can not spend that sum of money. 

Weidenhoeft said the price tag does not make it viable to develop a truck route. He added that the recommendation is not written on stone and will be visited in the future, especially with the development of the Shevlin Woodyard project.

All committee members were in favour of Rob’s recommendation.

However, Coun. Mike Behan said this topic should be revisited, especially with the development of the Shevlin Woodyard project and the inevitable increase of traffic on Front Street. He said trucks should go through Scott Street and avoid Front Street.

“I can agree with the recommendation to keep Front Street as the alternate route and keep working on it in the future,” Behan said.

Mayor June Caul said they will look closely to figure out what the best idea would be after the development of the Shevlin Woodyard project and for the stretch of Church Street.

“There’s been a concern right from the get go from councillors that they were worried about how the truck route was going to work down there,” Caul said. “This is a time now that we need to look at that a little bit more closely to figure out what the best idea would be for that stretch of Church Street.”