Officials with the Ministry of Transportation’s eastern regional office field questions from Renfrew County council. From left are director Kathy Moore, Jim MacLaurin, Norm Meyers, Ken Polson and Angela Stewart.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Deaths every year along the Highway 17 corridor of Renfrew County are blamed on everything from driver error, bad weather, lack of road maintenance and the virtual absence of a four-lane highway.
But perhaps the newly-formed TEAM Highway 17 Working Group is about to make the highway a whole lot safer.
During a visit to Renfrew County last week, officials with the Kingston regional office of the Ministry of Transportation made a presentation to county council on construction achievements, construction plans, and past and future maintenance standards.
The MTO, the Ontario Provincial Police and County of Renfrew staff met in a teleconference call about a month ago, then met again face to face for an Ottawa meeting Oct. 26.
Five days later, Norm Meyers, the traffic head for MTO Eastern Region, told county council that three action items have been identified for the working group. The group’s next meeting is Jan. 17, 2013.
The working group’s terms of reference are to identify of discuss safety or operational concerns, potential improvements and potential public education opportunities.
The working group’s mandate is to maintain or improve the safety and/or efficiency of Highway 17 from Campbell Drive (just west of Arnprior) to the county’s western boundary (about 20 kilometres east of Mattawa).
The working group’s co-chairs are Meyers and Darren Waters, senior project engineer for the MTO Eastern Region.
Renfrew County director of public works Dave Darch, who’s a member of the group, says, “How can we make the highway safer while we’re waiting for four-laning to come?”
The working group’s other five members are MTO Eastern Region’s traffic supervisor Toby Covell, regional communications co-ordinator Brandy Duhaime and regional planner Josee Bessette; and Dave Springer and Mark Andrews of the OPP. Springer and Andrews are the respective traffic and marine inspectors for the OPP’s east and northeast regions.
Action item No. 1 relates to this year’s death of a local woman at the intersection of Highway 17 and Haley Road.
As a result of the OPP’s site investigation into the accident’s contributing factors, the OPP has recommended the construction of a left-turn lane for drivers coming from the east.
In turn, the working group will examine more than a dozen Highway 17 intersections that do not have left-turn lanes, to determine if those turn lanes are needed. Collision analyses, traffic volume and economic viability will be considered.
Action item No. 2 involves hiring an independent consultant to determine the suitability of a two-lane transition zone — between the new four-lane highway (near Campbell Drive just outside Arnprior) and the ensuing transition zone — for up to 10 years. The ensuing transition zone basically consists of two lanes and two parallel passing zones for 1.5 kilometres.
There’s time to do this independent study, suggests Meyers, because of the unknowns of funding for Phase 2 of the Arnprior bypass. Phase 1, which runs 5.3 kilometres to Campbell Drive, is scheduled for completion this month.
Action item No. 3 will be discussion of the OPP’s mapping of Highway 17 collisions from the past 18 months, to help identify areas that may be safety concerns.
Darch sees the working group is an interim, but important, measure.
In the interim, the public works director wants to take a closer look at the causes of fatalities and, where necessary, make structural changes to the highway. Some of those changes may be costly, some not very costly at all, says Darch.