One Orléans resident said she may sellher house if a planned expansion of highway 174 goes through.
Andrea Smith, who has lived in her house on St. Jovite Ridge for five years, said the house already shakes when a bus or a big truck goes by.
“Right now my kids drown out the noise when they are playing in the backyard but we are worried about what will happen when it becomes six lanes,” she said.
Smith, along with several other residents of Orléans and Cumberland, attended the first of a series of public information sessions at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School on Feb. 7. The proposed expansion would see the 174 go from four lanes to six from the split to Trim Road, then four lanes along Highway 17 to Landry Road in Rockland. The study will consider improvements to the existing 174/17 corridor, upgrades to other existing roads and the construction of new roads in the study area.
Smith said currently there is only a chain-link fence separating her yard from the highway. An expansion could pose more danger to her children as well as increased noise and vibrations.
The public meeting was held to gauge public opinion of the environmental assessment process and hear some of the concerns.
Valerie McGirr, the project manager, said another open house in the fall will discuss design alternatives.
“For now we are just getting a sense of the conditions and determining transit needs,” she said.
The City of Ottawa and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell are partners on the project.
Currently the City of Ottawa has the expansion of the 174 listed as a phase 2 priority under the city’s transportation master plan, which means it could be constructed sometime between 2016 and 2022.
Even with conservative estimates, the existing work done by the project team has showed that roadways in the area will reach capacity by 2031. McGirr said traffic problems have been indentified for many years. The area around Green’s Creek is already at capacity, with other areas like Bilberry Creek set to reach capacity in 2031.
As part of the environmental assessment, the study team had to look at alternatives to widening the road. McGirr said a new route wouldn’t be an alternative because it doesn’t fit with the NCC’s Greenbelt master plan. Widening Innes Road isn’t an alternative because it won’t deliver the capacity needed and widening St. Joseph would cause a “significant impact” on the Orléans community.
Other alternatives for the segment from Trim to Rockland and in the town of Rockland were similarly examined and rejected.
Orléans Coun. Rainer Bloess said he is worried the assessment doesn’t consider ongoing noise barrier retrofit programs and plans for an interprovincial bridge.
“It seems out of sync,” he said.
McGirr said those projects would be considered, but an environmental assessment can’t include input until the bridge crossing site is determined.
“Will it change traffic patterns? Yes, but we don’t currently have that information,” she said.
Carl Ward, a resident of Orléans, said he is worried about the public’s safety in the way of the expansion.
“We already have problems with vibration and noise,” he said. “Things on your mantle will tilt and I think we have to seriously consider that.”
McGirr said environmental impacts like noise and vibrations will be studied during the assessment.
But Ottawa-Orléans MP Royal Galipeau said if we know how much noise trucks and buses make further west on Highway 417, we should know what kind of impact they will make in the east end.
“If we know they make noise at the Parkdale exit, won’t it be the same here?” he asked.
But McGirr said the study would also take into account noise from 2031 traffic estimates.
Ward said the area sits on a clay pot and the expansion could cause real problems for area homeowners.
Jeannie Smith from Cumberland echoed those sentiments and suggested a ring road, using vacant farmland to the south of the existing highway.
Residents who wish to provide more detailed comments can do so before Feb. 22 to Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 613-820-8282, ext. 243.
In the meantime Andrea Smith and her husband may be talking to a realtor.
“We don’t want to wait until later in the process because then more people will know about it and we may have trouble selling, if that’s the way we decide to go,” she said.