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Puslinch council divided on recreational traffic's place on township roads

Some councillors were adamant cyclist and pedestrian traffic needed to be included in future road development plans on a case-by-case basis

PUSLINCH ‒ While council is clear on the current purpose of Puslinch's roads, they remain divided on whether to accommodate for recreational traffic in future plans for road development and construction. 

During a council meeting earlier this week, Coun. Jessica Goyda and Coun. Sara Bailey wanted to ensure that the final draft of Puslinch's new Roads Management Plan left room for future development related to recreational use by cyclists and other pedestrian traffic on a case-by-case basis depending on budget, design, and community feedback. 

But while acting CAO and municipal clerk Courtenay Hoytfox said that staff has no issue providing that analysis from a design or budget perspective, Mayor James Seeley, who was absent from the previous council meeting where the draft was discussed, was less sure about incurring additional costs for traffic he feels is better directed elsewhere.

"Building bike lanes across the township to facilitate a recreational activity for likely people outside of our community is a huge expense to our taxpayer," said Seeley. “It’s hard enough to repave the roads we have as is." 

Seeley specifically listed the township's "plethora" of off-road biking trails and the ongoing upgrades to local recreational facilities like the PCC Park as examples of areas better suited for recreational traffic. 

Director of public works, parks and recreation Mike Fowler mirrored Seeley's concerns, saying that expanding an existing road would require far more work than simply paving an extra few inches, not to mention the additional costs incurred from maintaining the outcomes of additional pedestrian and cyclist traffic. 

“It’s not just as simple as paving a little further out,” said Fowler. “It’s quite a substantial cost.” 

Bailey built on that, asking whether a database of roads will be considered for recreational traffic and how that may interfere with set truck routes. 

“Not all roads are going to be appropriate and we might not need to know about a different design for a road that goes nowhere," said Bailey. "I was thinking if we could target five or six different roads that are appropriate that can get people from A to B." 

Hoytfox said that would require more consideration and review as their current county road infrastructure is designed for trucks but their wide shoulders could also be an asset for recreational traffic to connect to if the town were to create an active transportation network.

However, Seeley didn’t feel that asking staff to offer redesigns or multiple designs for a road was cost-effective and was "nervous" about making roads a spot for recreation, especially considering many of their roads are narrow as a traffic mitigating measure. 

But Bailey stood fast, saying that the township needs to provide an option for residents who are going to try to take the roads anyway. 

“I think we’re also looking at the difference between recreation and active transportation," said Bailey. "One involves maybe just widening the road so that a cyclist for recreation can go down it and the other option is really widening it and making bike paths." 

Hoytfox made note of all staff comments during the meeting and an update on the items discussed will be provided at a future meeting. 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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