Residents here are no strangers to delays and setbacks when it comes to building a new Highway 7: the project was discussed for decades and went through myriad design changes before finally getting the go-ahead. It then took years before actual construction began.
Now, set on reviewing its finances in light of years of mismanagement by the previous occupants of Queens’ Park, the new provincial government has essentially put the project on hold. Having already spent some $120 million and seeing ever-increasing traffic volumes on the existing route, the province is likely to go ahead, come what may.
At peak times, the highway is carrying heavy volumes, and the number of cars will grow dramatically by the time a new highway is built to the north of the existing route.
Of course, it’s been nothing but hurry-up-and-wait for a highway decades in the making.
Once a new four-lane highway is completed, the region would have two major routes – one a high-speed expressway with controlled access and the other a more genteel version of the current highway. This would certainly be a boon to some of the businesses there, including the garden centres whose customers would be better served by a more sedate stream of traffic along the existing route.
That arrangement will also serve the development of Breslau, where growth is coming in leaps and bounds. That includes a retail centre to the north of Victoria Street on land adjacent to Ebycrest Road.
The overburdened existing route will become even more perilous and snarled as the Breslau area starts to boom.
As well, underuse of the Breslau bypass route can in part be tied to the unbuilt Hwy. 7. The new highway would lead to the northward extension of Fountain Street, prompting more people to take that route rather than using Woolwich Street through the village core.
For travellers coming from the north and west, the Breslau bypass route is not the easiest option to exercise. Fountain Street isn’t the choice of all drivers on a course between Victoria Street and points south of the village.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Basic geometry. And the basis of recurring concerns expressed by residents of Breslau, particularly those living on Woolwich Street.
Construction of a bypass route was supposed to take traffic around the village. Instead, drivers were slow to make use of the new route. Even a casual observer would note that trucks and commuters continue to travel through the community as they move back and forth between Hwy. 7 and the industrial areas to the south of the village.
A number of solutions have been proposed. The most prevalent suggestion – continuing Fountain Street across Victoria Street to meet Ebycrest Road – would have the desired effect: traffic coming from the north would be funneled directly onto the new route.
A new east-west corridor, combined with a more attractive north-south Fountain Street route, would serve to meet the needs of Breslau residents, addressing their safety concerns, as well as those of people travelling on the current Hwy. 7.
Right now, Hwy. 7 carries far more traffic than a highway of its ilk is expected to accommodate. Anyone who travels the route regularly knows a new highway is needed. The Ministry of Transportation knows that. Chances are the Ford government does, too, and the work will get done … eventually. The waiting game continues.