Chet Greason, Gazette staff
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has settled on a south bypass of Shakespeare for its Highway 7/8 rebuild, a project that will also see significant changes to Stratford's south end.
The MTO’s recommended plan was unveiled to the public at a meeting at the Shakespeare Optimist Hall on Wednesday, July 24. Another meeting is planned for tomorrow (Thursday, July 25) at the Rotary Complex in Stratford from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
The new proposal has the highway swing south just before Shakespeare after Road 106. The current stretch of road leaving Shakespeare to the east would end in a cul-de-sac, while an exit lane would allow access to the village for westward travellers. The earliest that drivers in Shakespeare could access the highway would be via a signaled stop at Road 107, just south of the railway.
A bridge would span the highway at the Road 108 intersection, whereas another lit intersection would provide further access at Road 109.
A noise barrier is also proposed for the length of highway as it travels past Shakespeare.
The highway, rather than swinging north to rejoin its current lie, would instead bend even further south after Road 109, eventually linking up with Perth Line 33 into Stratford.
Passing through Stratford, the new divergence of Highways 7 and 8 would happen at Erie and Lorne, instead of its current downtown fork at Erie and Ontario.
Also in store for Stratford would be a series of cul-de-sacs. Scott Street, Dunlop Place, Linton Avenue, and Monteith Avenue would all end rather than cross the highway.
Once outside of the city, a roundabout at Road 125 would swing the highway northward, while a second roundabout would link it back to the current Highway 8.
The entire stretch would be four lanes wide, except for the segment west of Erie, where it would shrink to two. A centre left-turn lane would also be installed, except for the stretch around Shakespeare.
In total, 204 properties would be impacted. Thirty one buildings would be displaced, including 20 residential, six agricultural, and five commercial.
The operation would also call for the removal of a “significant” number of trees, including an intrusion across the northern edge of a large woodlot. Placards set up at the meeting in Shakespeare indicated the highway could result in the loss of habitat for local wildlife, and suggested the MTO would make attempts to minimize the impact.
Meanwhile, the historical Fryfogel Tavern's frontage would remain the same, with the MTO vowing to keep a close eye on the building’s foundation to avoid damaging it during the highway’s construction.
According to MTO senior project manager, Charles Organ, it's likely going to be a while before ground is broken on the project.
“Right now, this project is identified as a priority, however, there’s no funding allocation,” he says. “It will be sometime before we see or hear any announcements about construction.”
He goes on to explain that, likely, some sections will be realized faster than others, with the highway’s renovation happening in increments over many years.
Still, those whose properties are affected by the current proposal are encouraged to contact the MTO immediately. The Ministry will be accepting feedback from the public up until October 31. This feedback will influence a new report set to be released in 2014.
Linda Knechtel owns property on the eastern edge of Shakespeare. A former business owner in the village, she calls the project “a necessary evil.
“Something has to be done about the traffic on the highway,” she says. “Although I don’t like how we can’t get out of Shakespeare east of town. That will definitely have an impact on the businesses in town.”
Knechtel adds she thinks the best option would be for the highway to continue passing through the village, but that it should condense down to three lanes from four within Shakespeare; an east and westbound lane plus a left turning lane.