Don’t count on moving along at a better pace between Elmira and Waterloo, nor taking a route skirting the downtown core just yet, but both those issues are on the Region of Waterloo’s radar.
The region is currently accepting bids to carry out an environmental assessment (EA) that encompasses a future widening of the highway between Waterloo and Elmira, as well as a potential bypass route around downtown Elmira.
It’s early days yet, and any potential construction isn’t likely to take place for at least a decade or so.
The region’s transportation master plan has the widening to four lanes of Arthur Street south of the roundabout on the books for 2031, while the northern stretch from Sawmill Road to Listowel Road in Elmira is in the 2031-2041 timeline. A bypass route to funnel traffic around Elmira rather than through the downtown core falls outside that timeline.
“We have a request for proposal currently out for consulting services and completing an EA for the Elmira bypass and Arthur Street corridor study. We’ll be reviewing and identifying traffic and transportation concerns along Arthur Street, and the EA will help us to inform on next steps, including opening discussions about whether a bypass or some other alternative is required. We’re in the very early stages,” said project manager Bill Gilbert.
In addition to road widening, improvements to be looked at as part of the study include the possible urbanization (curb and gutter, street lighting) of the roadway, storm sewers, drainage improvements, watermains, sanitary sewers, intersection improvements, and active transportation (pedestrians, cyclists) and transit facilities.
The EA process will identify the need for the full range of improvements, and what they might look like, said Gilbert.
Discussions about widening Arthur Street comes as Elmira sees significant growth, leading to greater north-south traffic flows into Waterloo. The bypass has been a longstanding topic of discussion at Woolwich Township, though it’s only recently made it onto the region’s radar.
Woolwich’s official plan calls for an assessment to look at possible routes to keep through-traffic, particularly trucks, out of the downtown core. A likely scenario would see a route running east of the Arthur Street, perhaps branching off of the main road at Union Street at the south end and rejoining the road to the north in the vicinity of Kenning Place. Arthur Street is a regional road, with congestion being the region’s responsibility.
There haven’t been any formal talks with the region since the EA was announced, said Jared Puppe, Woolwich’s director of infrastructure services, adding he’s looking forward to the process.
“The region’s looking at this every which way from Sunday. They’re going to look at the west side, the east side – they’re not confined anywhere. I think that’s a great approach, because I think there could be pros and cons. It’s very expensive going on the river side, but the west side would offer cost efficiencies, potentially easier servicing,” he said, welcoming the fact that the region is getting the ball rolling.
“Figuring out the best route is going to be a tough one, and of course you’re never going to satisfy everybody. But the fact that the region is starting it, I think is really good news.”
Gilbert said staff are looking to bring the hiring of a consultant to council by June. Once selected, the consultant would undertake some background studies before turning to the public consultation stage in late-2022 or early 2023.
“The purpose of the study is to look at the traffic and transportation concerns and identify some needs and opportunities. The EA is going to help inform us specifically on the next steps regarding the bypass and widening, about whether a bypass or other alternatives is required and how that might be accommodated. So we’re really just in that starting stages,” he said.