Peterborough County council wants the city to consider reopening Old Norwood Road, Maniece Avenue and McFarlane Street to traffic — and one city councillor says he’s willing to talk about it.
In a decision made by city staff, the three roads were closed to through traffic at the start of October when the Warsaw Swing Bridge on Parkhill Road East was closed by the Trent-Severn Waterway for repairs, which are expected to take about eight months.
County council voted unanimously Wednesday to ask the city to consider reopening at least one of the streets to detour traffic because the closures constitute a severe and prolonged disruption for many county residents.
And Peterborough Coun. Keith Riel, whose Ashburnham Ward includes the three residential streets, said he agrees the situation is vexatious for many residents of both the city and county.
“I would like to see some sort of change to accommodate people,” he said.
Riel said he thinks the city could perhaps allow limited use of the residential streets for detour traffic during morning and evening peak times, for instance, with a police officer directing the cars.
City staff have said the swing bridge takes 10,000 vehicles daily and that Old Norwood Road, Maniece Avenue and McFarlane Street cannot take that traffic safely — hence the street closures.
“But there has to be some sort of solution,” Riel said.
At the county council meeting earlier in the day, Otonabee-South Monaghan Mayor Joe Taylor said the road closures have severely impacted residents in the county, particularly those in his township and in Douro-Dummer Township who normally use the bridge on trips to the city.
“But I would suggest it extends even further than that,” he said. “Any residents who are heading east, perhaps into Asphodel-Norwood or Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, could be dealing with this also.”
“And there’s a big difference between inconveniencing people and dramatically affecting their lives, and unfortunately that’s what these road closures have done.”
Some residents have told Taylor they’ve been unable to get to work on time because they can’t leave their home until their children are on the bus, while some have to drop their children off at daycare, and then have to take long detour routes to cross the waterway over the Lansdowne Street or Nassau Mills Road bridges.
“I don’t believe that the city put enough thought into other alternatives — and I believe that there are alternatives there that should be explored and options that should be considered,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, the city is “exaggerating the impact” that it would have on the three streets if they weren’t closed, Taylor added.
“The traffic count they’re giving us is about 10,000 vehicles a day. We all agree that commercial vehicles represent a part of that, and they should not be allowed to use the residential streets and for the most part, they don’t want to,” he said.
A motion prepared by Taylor and presented to council during the virtual meeting on Wednesday noted that the road closures will increase commutes for county residents and consequently increase greenhouse gas emissions.
“So much for a climate emergency,” said County Warden J. Murray Jones, who is mayor of Douro-Dummer.
The motion further highlighted that the closures will have a negative effect on many businesses within the affected area.
“This has truly affected many businesses in our township and East City. Many of our residents are regular customers of East City and downtown Peterborough,” said Douro-Dummer Deputy Mayor Karl Moher.
Riel said he knows that motorists are lacking access to downtown businesses and that cars will be funnelled onto other streets that may not be able to take additional traffic — University Road, for instance.
He added that he speaks with his county counterparts all the time and is willing to discuss potential solutions: “It’s not like we live in isolation.”
Mayor Diane Therrien and Peterborough Coun. Gary Baldwin for Ashburnham Ward could not be reached for comment Wednesday.