Earlier this spring, a media spokesperson from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) informed the Journal Argus that no communication had been received by the Ministry from the Town of St. Marys about the municipality’s concerns vis-à-vis the planned Highway 7 construction detour. Then last week, this same media representative reportedly informed a different area news outlet that plans for the detour had not changed from the original proposal.
Neither response was correct.
Town of St. Marys CAO Kevin McLlwain, after learning of the original report that no communication had come from the town, responded that a letter had been sent. He provided the name of the MTO official with whom he had communicated, but asked that the name be kept confidential. This person is not the MTO’s official media spokesperson, after all, and McLlwain is fully aware of the labyrinthian approach used by government ministries (not just in Ontario, but across Canada) when it comes to the release of information.
Was the letter really sent? Of course it was.
And has the detour been altered from the original plan? Contrary to last week’s news report (and contrary to a subsequent letter to the Ministry from Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece — which is reprinted on the opposite page), the detour has been changed . . . at least for now.
The original proposal had all traffic rerouted south of Highway 7 at Wellburn Road, east through Harrington, and turning north again on the Embro Road to rejoin Highway 7 near Stratford. Mayor Steve Grose and others expressed their dismay, correctly noting this would take traffic far from St. Marys, possibly for many months.
Construction has now resumed, with work actively underway in two locations: around Line 15 of Zorra; and at the Wildwood corner. Traffic is not being detoured to the Embro Road; it is being directed back to Highway 7 at the former Highway 19.
At Wildwood, workers with caution signs are sometimes directing vehicles, but all traffic is being allowed to continue. It appears (to the uneducated eye) that the contractor is building temporary bypasses at the Wildwood corner, perhaps to allow for continued access even while the roundabout is being built.
Some points of frustration remain: The closure of perfectly new pavement between Wellburn Road and James Street; the use of Oxford Road 96 as a detour, even though the official detour is Road 92. Perhaps more precise signage would help — advising only those en route to St. Marys to continue past Wellburn Road to Water Street; and urging motorists not to use Road 96.
The larger questions, of course, are for the future — once work begins at the Highway 19 intersection. What will happen then? And when will the MTO’s media representative have all the facts straight?