Everything You Wanted to Know About the Widening of Hwy 26, But Were Afraid to Ask!
Highway 26 Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When is Hwy 26 going to be widened?
A. At this time any road widening of Hwy 26 is only strictly conceptual. No decisions have been made as to the extent and timing of any proposed widening. Environmental and design studies are required which will include extensive public involvement. A realistic timeframe for any expansion of Hwy 26 is after 2025.
Q. There have been many studies done along Hwy 26. Which one relates to the future widening of Hwy 26?
A. The Town and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) have both lead transportation studies along the Hwy 26 corridor with many of the studies seeming to overlap. Figure 1 is provided to explain the various studies.
In 2014 the MTO competed a Ministry Environmental Assessment for the rehabilitation of Hwy 26 from east of Thornbury to Grey Road 21. This study and the subsequent construction work completed in 2015 has a 10 to 15-year timeline. Its purpose was to address short-term drainage, access and road platform concerns.
From the Town’s Strategic Transportation Plan completed in 2010 came three Municipal Class Environmental Assessments (EA’s) that followed the formal process to consider alternatives at:
- Intersections of Hwy 26 / Grey Road 2 / Clark Street;
- Intersections of Hwy 26 / Grey Road 40 / Woodland Park Road; and
- Hwy 26 Craigleith Area from Grey Road 19 to Grey Road 21
The primary focus of these three EA’s is for the next 15 – 20 years for mid-range improvements necessary to address road deficiencies and coordinate improvements needed due to growth pressures. Of these three EA’s, two are completed while the Craigleith Area EA is still ongoing. More information on this study is available on the Town’s website Craigleith Area & Highway 26 EA.
In 2015, the MTO completed a long-range 20 – 50 years Hwy 26 Transportation Study – Needs Assessment Report to scope future studies for the broader Hwy 26 corridor from east of Stayner to the west of Thornbury. This study proposed by-passes of Stayner, Collingwood and Thornbury. Due to the escarpment, the preferred proposal included a future widening of Hwy 26 through Craigleith from GR21 to the future Thornbury by-pass. The widening is suggested to be a 4 or 5 lanes road section. The study did include a possible alternate route for the highway along GR19 and GR2. Although using the county roads for a realigned Hwy 26 was not preferred, it will still be evaluated as a possible option when the relevant study is completed.
Q. How can the Town just let all this new development go ahead without knowing the future road system?
A. Developers have the right to develop their lands provided they are in conformance with the Town’s Official Plan and other relevant legislation. Developers must ensure that road infrastructure can support their development. It may be necessary for them to make improvements in the area to enable their development to go ahead. At some point, if the road is not improved, the road will reach its capacity and no further development can proceed.
Q. What is the Town doing to get MTO to not widen Hwy 26?
A. The Town has asked and continues to ask the MTO to advance their Environmental Assessment Study that will formally define what works will be done to manage the traffic over the next 50 years. Until that study is done, no definitive answer can be given as to future works. The Town will oppose the widening of Hwy 26 to a 4 / 5 lane cross-section from GR21 to the new Thornbury bypass given its impact on adjacent landowners and the character of the roadway along the water’s edge. It must though be kept in mind that traffic loading is expected to keep growing along the Hwy 26 corridor unless there is a dramatic change in economic or technological factors so there will be future traffic management challenges. Advancing the MTO’s EA will answer these questions and bring certainty to the community.
In addition to advocating for the advancement of the MTO’s EA, the Town is opening a dialogue with our neighbouring communities along Hwy 26 to understand their needs and to bring a coordinated approach to improvements along the corridor.
Q. When will the MTO expropriate lands for the widening?
A. No decision made as to when, and moreover if, a road widening will be made. The MTO will only initiate land acquisition only after their EA study is completed which will define the future works. Expropriation will only be used if deemed necessary by the MTO.
Q. If the MTO doesn’t plan to widen Hwy 26 soon, why are they asking for road allowance widenings and additional setbacks from developers?
A. The MTO completed a Hwy 26 Transportation Study – Needs Assessment Report in 2015 to scope future studies for the broader Hwy 26 corridor from east of Stayner to the west of Thornbury. This report identified that the preferred solution included the potential widening of Hwy 26 from GR21 to the future Thornbury by-pass to a 4/5 lane cross-section. The findings of the Needs Assessment Report provide the authorization for MTO to request widenings at this time even if the future works don’t require the widening. The MTO is protecting their road allowance in the event that the widening becomes necessary at some point in the future.
Q. Why isn’t the speed limit lowered in Craigleith to slow traffic?
A. The Town has had requests from the public and made numerous inquiries to the MTO to consider reducing the speed limit from 80km/hr to 60 km/hr from where the 60 km/hr zone ends until at least GR19 or to the Craigleith Provincial Park. The MTO has undertaken several speed studies and has concluded that their warrants are not achieved to require a speed limit reduction and so have denied the requests.
Q. Who at the Town can I talk to about the future of Hwy 26.
A. Please contact Director Operations Department at 519-599-3131 ext. 260.