Traffic woes were flagged in transfer station debate

To the surprise of no one, with the exception perhaps of the planners and officials involved, development on the west side of Waterloo has created a traffic nightmare.

This week, for instance, the opening of a new Costco store caused huge delays for trucks accessing the nearby regional landfill site, resulting in garbage going uncollected at some households.

Though collection was not interrupted in the townships, residents there can be forgiven for thinking some waste transfer stations would have come in handy. And not just due to this week’s delays at the Erb Street site, but due to the longstanding traffic woes in that area.

Ira Needles Boulevard – that route of a thousand roundabouts – was already problematic in the early stages of development along its length, including The Boardwalk. As more retail stores appeared and subdivisions pushed west, things only got worse. Where officials claimed the boulevard’s single lane was sufficient, there was some quick backpedalling and expansion plans rolled out.

Given the growth forecast for that side of Waterloo and Kitchener, the congestion will only become more problematic. Nothing on the planning side – regional or local – will change that.

Where the region long touted its light rail transit line as a way to reduce the number of cars on the road, it was forced to retract that argument. Not, of course, that a short north-south route of a slow-moving train would have any impact on growth on the west side of the cities. And once the region lost its legal action to restrict such growth – developers gained ten times the amount of land the region was aiming for – all the forecasts were moot, as were any plans such as the LRT.

The train also factors into the closing of the rural transfer stations. Bleeding red ink, the unloved project has prompted the region to find money elsewhere. If that means sacrificing other services, especially ones impacting fewer voters, then so be it.

While some Woolwich councillors pushed to keep the Elmira transfer station open, perhaps making a transition to a private operator, the idea was eventually dropped as residents seemed resigned to losing the service. The public outcry was fairly vigourous, however, and many of the problems predicted in the wake of closing the facility have in fact occurred. Woolwich predicted there would be more roadside dumping by people unwilling to deal with the hassle and expense of taking trash all the way over to the Waterloo landfill site, and that has been the case. Critics also pointed to the potential worsening of traffic congestion in the vicinity of the dump, and that has certainly been the case, highlighted by Tuesday’s backed-up garbage problems.

If the current pace of deteriorating accessibility continues, the region and city will have to look at alternatives. Clearly, a new landfill site isn’t on any list of short- or medium-term lists. And there’s no stuffing the development genie back into the bottle: growth, likely of the unsustainable kind, will continue without interruption. That leaves finding a way to reduce traffic flows in the immediate vicinity of the dump, likely trips to the site itself. The region could look at a system where, for instance, there are several decentralized locations where people could take their garbage for later collection and transport to the landfill site, say in off hours when traffic is much lighter.

They might even give such locations a name, something along the lines of “waste transfer stations.”

 

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