Tough road ahead for Horseshoe Valley road widening proposal
By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner
ORO-MEDONTE TWP. — A group of Horseshoe Valley residents continue to fight a proposal by Simcoe County to make changes to a stretch of County Road 22 (Horseshoe Valley Road) between Line 3 and Line 4.
The county is proposing to improve intersections along the stretch, located approximately 25 kilometres north of Barrie, by adding turn lanes and tapers (helping two lanes merge into one), and also provide truck climbing lanes on the uphill sides of each of the two steep hills between the third and fourth lines.
The project’s initial budget is $7.5 million, which could grow after the Class Environmental Assessment study is completed.
Shauna Tozser, president of the Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association, said while residents appreciate efforts to make the road safer, adding truck lanes isn’t the way to do it.
“Our focus is on safety and speed. No one is arguing that trucks are unsafe but through all the research we’ve done, truck lanes will decrease the safety level,” she said. “In our estimation, we don’t have a problem with trucks in our area. If they widen this road, the existing speeding issue is going to get worse.”
Debbie Korolnek, general manager of engineering, planning and environment for Simcoe County, said it is not a road-widening project. It is intended to improve the safety of the roadway by adding truck passing lanes on the steeper grades, improve intersections, address planned future growth and to rectify existing deficiencies in the road design.
She said three criteria were met that led to the proposed project: a 15 kilometres per hour or greater speed reduction expected for a typical heavy truck; upgrade traffic flow that exceeds 200 vehicles per hour and upgrade truck flow that exceeds 20 vehicles per hour.
Currently, the annual average daily traffic volume for County Road 22 is 5,300 vehicles per day west of the Horseshoe Valley Resort entrance, and 4,600 vehicles per day east of the entrance. A county consultant has projected traffic volumes by 2033 will be 7,000 vehicles per day west of the resort entrance and 6,100 vehicles per day east of the entrance.
Projections are based on a 1% per year traffic growth, which may be conservative, Korolnek said.
Tozser challenges some of the county’s numbers, among them, how many large trucks use that section of Horseshoe Valley Road.
“There are not 20 heavy trucks per hour coming up that hill,” she said.
Korolnek said engineering studies have determined a truck-climbing lane is needed.
“It doesn’t have as much to do with truck volume, although that is a (consideration), as it does with grade and the ability of heavily-loaded trucks to maintain a decent speed when they are going up the hill,” she said. “What we’re trying to encourage is if you’re going to overtake a truck, to do it safely without going into oncoming traffic. We’re trying to make this stretch of road safe.
“All county roads are arterial roads. They are all meant to carry this kind of traffic to urban centres throughout the county. It’s really already a truck route,” Korolnek added. “It’s not signed as a truck route but by definition, arterial roads are meant to carry that kind of traffic.”
Horseshoe Valley resident David Myles, who attended a public meeting last week about the proposal, was also opposed to the climbing lanes.
“They were very negative towards the climbing lanes which would essentially create a highway. When you start adding lanes it encourages people going faster,” he said. “There will be turns at key intersections across Horseshoe Valley Road including the Fourth Line, across from a kids’ park. It will be more like a major four-lane highway.”
John Coleman was walking his dog near the Horseshoe Valley Memorial Park on Line 4, just a stone’s throw away from County Road 22
“Personally, I’ve never seen (the traffic) as a problem, he said, adding the 70 kilometres an hour speed limit on the steep hills makes sense. “Why would (the county) want to make it busier? It would spoil the aesthetics of the area. To me, the trucks have not been an issue. I don’t get held up by them.”
Another public meeting regarding the proposal will be held in the spring of 2015.
Public input is welcome at any point in the project. Questions can be directed to Paul Murphy (Simcoe County project manager, 705-726-9300) or Mike Neumann (project director at Ainley & Associates, 705-445-3451).