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Alma residents want to hit the brakes on increased truck traffic

Alma residents and Mapleton's mayor said they feel another truck bypass route around Fergus needs to be identified

New signs for a truck bypass for an alternate route around Fergus may be welcome news to residents there, but not so much for residents of Alma.

Many aren’t happy that truck traffic is being redirected through the middle of their hamlet.

The truck bypass route suggests trucks that are going north on Highway 6 from Guelph to take Wellington Road 7 past Elora and then turn right at Wellington Road 17 to go back to Highway 6.

This bypass was recommended in the Centre Wellington Transportation Master Plan and approved by county council in February 2020.

It is intended to ease congestion, improve walkability and reduce truck noise through the Highway 6 corridor in Fergus. 

However, the intersection of Wellington Road 7 and 17 is right in the heart of Alma, a small hamlet of just a few hundred residents. 

“Personally for me, it’s the safety of families and everybody in town: seniors, children, adults and teens,” said Amanda Reid, who is part of the Concerned Citizens of Alma.

“We need to be able to know that we can safely enjoy our hamlet and adding all this additional traffic and truck routes through such a small space that can’t handle the turns and things is scary for people who live here.”

Reid said in a phone interview she feels there has been an increase in trucks since signs went in but doesn’t think the town can support this kind of traffic.

“We have one stoplight in our entire town and there are no turn lanes for the trucks coming up (Wellington Road) 7 and turning right,” Reid said. 

When standing at the corner with her children or other families, Reid said you often need to take a step back when trucks are coming by. 

“You know they’re not going to make the turn and they actually come up and over the curb or over the corner,” Reid said. “It’s a very unsafe light to start with and now you’re going to add all the truck traffic in.”

Mapleton mayor Gregg Davidson agreed this corner is a tight one for trucks adding they’ve lost planter boxes at those corners previously.

“The trucks there do have a turning radius problem and we have a large number of homes on that road as well ... and businesses,” Davidson said. 

“The kids use that intersection to cross to get to the convenience store or the school and it’s just going to be a very tedious time for those families as they now have to watch out for all those extra vehicles.”

Davidson stressed he has no issue with a bypass around downtown Fergus and knows that it is necessary for the businesses and residents there. 

However, he said he believes there is an alternative to sending the trucks through Alma that needs to be sourced out and looked at. 

Centre Wellington’s Transportation Master Plan did look at another option where Second Line would connect to Wellington Road 29 with a new crossing built over the Grand River, bringing trucks back to Highway 6 from the east side of Fergus.

However, the document states Second Line is currently unpaved and a new road would need to be constructed north of the Grand River through environmentally-sensitive lands or near existing residential development.

A public meeting held Thursday on the County of Wellington’s Roads Master Action Plan (RMAP) — a study that looks at transportation network needs due to population and employment growth to 2041 — brought out Alma residents looking to see if there was a plan to address concerns over the bypass. 

Reid said she personally knew about 10 households who attended and meeting moderator Zahra Jaffer noted multiple questions came in about how the truck bypass impacts safety in Alma.

Paul Bumstead, consultant on the RMAP, responded they acknowledge that diverting traffic from other areas does have an impact on others but noted the RMAP study is fairly high-level and further detailed study on potential bypasses will be necessary.

Don Kudo, county engineer, added that trucks are still permitted to go through Fergus and on all county roads. The bypass is merely another route and Kudo said, based on traffic analysis, trucks have historically been using the route through Alma. 

James Ferrier, who owns a farm along Wellington Road 17, spoke up at the meeting and said to his knowledge, he and other farmers weren’t consulted on this bypass.

“Wellington (Road) 17 has very poor sight lines as it is driving tractors, combines and other equipment,” Ferrier said at the meeting as he extended an invitation to councillors to take a ride with him so they could see for themselves.

“We often get passed blindly on hills, that seems to be increasing with the number of trucks on the road.”

Kudo said county staff will note his concerns but stressed again that trucks are permitted on county roads. 

Reid said the Concerned Citizens of Alma may have to rally again to get their voices heard on this matter. 

They have been successful previously. The residents’ group was instrumental in halting an application to bury four large propane tanks just on the edge of town. 

“It’s a lot of work but...when you have a lot of people who care about such a small town, it makes a big difference,” Reid said.