St. Marys Journal Argus
“It’s quality of life,” says Thomas Street resident Amy Brennan. “We can’t open our windows any more . . . The road right in front of our house is starting to crack up a bit and, when the axles hit those cracks, it sounds like a cannon.”
The Perth County OPP detachment has been asked to enhance enforcement of speed limits on the street as Town Council seeks to address ongoing complaints from the public about aggregate trucks. But early indications are that the 40-km/h speed limit is not broken on a consistent basis.
“It may seem fast because they’re large vehicles. But, according to what we’ve been told by the police, recently (the truck operators) have been making an effort to keep below the speed limit,” said Town of St. Marys CAO Kevin McLlwain in an interview last week.
McLlwain reported that, during a recent series of monitoring sessions by OPP officers in semi-concealed locations along the road, the fastest speed recorded for an aggregate truck was 41 km/h.
Action by the police to counter the dust raised from the aggregate inside those trucks, meanwhile, is not something that will be pursued.
“The police only act if there’s (solid) material physically coming out of the truck, and that would be considered an unsecure load,” explained Councillor Tony Winter, when providing a report last week to Committee of the Whole about a recent meeting of the town’s Police Services Board.
Winter reported that the subject of Thomas Street was brought up by himself and fellow PSB Council representative, Mayor Steve Grose, at the recent meeting.
“They said they were aware of the concerns, particularly around speed limit and the timing of traffic,” Winter explained, referring to the reaction from OPP representatives to the citizen complaints.
Signs in place request that the passage of trucks be limited to between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. This, however, is another limitation that’s not enforceable by the OPP.
Winter added that covers over aggregate trucks are required by the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario, and covers would definitely cut down on dust. But covers are only required when the aggregate is of a certain size.
He suggested the material being transported along Thomas Street does not meet that threshold, so covers are not required.
None of these revelations is sitting well with a group of Thomas Street residents who have grown increasingly frustrated with what they say is near constant truck-related noise, flying debris, and dust. Speaking to the Journal Argus, Brennan reported that Town staff helped organize some recent closed-door meetings involving the group and representatives of St. Marys Cement, with which a significant proportion of the trucks — sometimes over 200 per day, or six per munite, says the Thomas Street mother of two young children — are associated.
“The Cement Company was very good about looking at solutions,” confirmed Brennan. “But the problem is, we’re in a hurry to have something happen. They’re not.”
Speaking to the Journal Argus, McLlwain said he understands the concerns of the residents. In many cases, he conceded, front windows in the homes along the east side of Thomas Street sit at approximately the same level as the roadbed due to the slope towards the Thames River. So it’s understandable that the noise of axles, wheels and transmission would be more disruptive than on an average street.
“You can definitely see where people are coming from. They’ve bought a house on what appears, at first impression, to be a quiet, residential street,” McLlwain commented. “And then they find out that there are a lot of trucks travelling along the road.”
McLlwain described the St. Marys Cement Company, which uses Thomas Street to get from its quarry property on the west side of the river to its manufacturing facility on the east, as “a very, very good corporate citizen” who has worked over the decades to mitigate the effects of their aggregate transport on the road and adjacent property owners.
In years past, trucks forded the river to avoid the trip through town. And Brennan confirmed that, with that option now off the radar, the company has been open to discussing other ideas to divert trucks away from the Thomas/Park/Water Street route — along which she says other residents have also raised the alarm recently.
Residents may have perceived an elevated level of traffic in recent months, McLlwain suggested, because there HAS been increased traffic . . . but not due to St. Marys Cement. Instead, the development of residential lots at the south end of Tracy Street has translated into the use of Thomas Street to transport fill out of town.
The biggest factor preventing a more satisfactory resolution for Thomas Street residents, the CAO adds, is that the roadway is classed a “collector road” in the town’s Official Plan. As such, it isn’t possible under provincial legislation to limit truck traffic. The only way to legally change that, McLlwain advised, would be to re-open the Official Plan have the road reclassified as a “local road.”
Brennan doesn’t buy McLlwain’s assertion that the increased traffic is temporary. “We heard the same thing last year, when there was work in another part of town. And soon enough, they’ll be working (on the Ardmore Park property up the hill from Thomas Street). It seems like there will always be ‘an abnormally high number of trucks’.”
And she says, regardless of the what’s available to the town under legislation, it makes sense for something to be done to limit the traffic.
“We see tourists all the time and they stop and say, ‘what’s with all the trucks?’” Brennan said.
“We’ve got our main, special elite accommodations (Westover Inn) right here, and people staying there can’t even enjoy a nice walk into town.”