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Proposed Horseshoe Valley Road widening rattles residents

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In Council Watch
May 22nd, 2014
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By Roberta Bell Barrie Examiner

ORO-MEDONTE TWP. — Horseshoe Valley residents are concerned ongoing discussions at the county about widening Horseshoe Valley Road could turn it into a major truck route, says the president of the Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association.

“This community was very vocal in the fact they don’t want to see additional trucks in this area,” Shauna Tozser said.

Simcoe County is in the second phase of an environmental assessment of the roughly three-kilometre stretch of Horseshoe Valley Road between Line 3 and Line 4 in Oro-Medonte Township.

While there are no specific designs yet, the county is looking at upgrades such as left- and right-turn lanes and truck-climbing lanes that would allow other drivers to pass to keep traffic moving, said Debbie Korolnek, general manager of engineering, planning and environment with the county.

“We’ve got some difficult intersections and also some very challenging steep grades,” she said.

According to county data, there were 398 vehicle collisions on Horseshoe Valley Road between 2001 and 2011. Forty-three of those occurred on the stretch between Line 3 and Line 4.

“The accident rate on that smaller section of Horseshoe Valley Road is double what it is along the entire length of the road,” Korolnek said.

County data shows Horseshoe Valley Road is already the shortest truck route between Orillia and Collingwood.

If the road is upgraded, it won’t take long for truck companies to realize, Tozser said.

“We’re going to see an increase in truck traffic, which is going to change the intention of this settlement area,” Tozser said. “What about community safety? What about pedestrians? What about cyclists? What about the natural resort and settlement area that we live in and the lifestyle here? How are we going to take those social impacts into consideration?”

Residents are concerned their children could have to cross six lanes of traffic if they’re moving between the medical clinic, community centre, basketball courts, trail and park, Tozser said.

Safety is the county’s primary concern, too, Korolnek said.

The community, which has a population of approximately 2,000, is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years, Korolnek said.

She said Skyline International Development has submitted planning applications for condominiums and a subdivision.

The county has held two public meetings — one in November and one last week — about the potential roadwork, but Tozser said residents don’t believe their issues are being considered.

“No one took any notes as resident after resident after resident took the microphone and asked questions and provided alternative solutions, asked them to explore options, asked for data, asked for results of studies,” Tozser said.

Simcoe County Deputy Warden and Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes said the Ministry of the Environment will review what the county proposes if residents are not satisfied.

“People sometimes have a tendency to believe a study is just going through a process where the decisions have already been made and it’s just going through the motions of it all,” he said. “There are a number of checks and balances in this system.”

At the end of the day, both sides are primarily focused on safety, Hughes said.

“Certain individuals have different ideas about what will make it safer,” he said. “However, that doesn’t mean that once the actual plan comes forward … there may not be a common agreement. With safety being the key factor, we should end up with a common result.”

The deadline for public input on the second phase of the environmental assessment is June 6.

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