At the end of a five-hour debate lasting into the early morning hours last night, the City of Thunder Bay passed by a vote of 7-6 a new truck route plan, which had been debated on and off by council for over 10 years. The next step in the process will be for the City to present bylaw language to council, along with a proposed enforcement date of the new truck route.
“This was a very politically and locally-charged issue where it clearly appears that some on council let issue fatigue dictate their vote as opposed to the facts,” said OTA president Stephen Laskowski. “It was clear from the closing testimony, by even some supporters of the motion, that this new truck route will most likely introduce safety concerns for the motoring public and pedestrian traffic. However, instead of working with road engineers and multi-stakeholders to see what issues could be addressed prior to moving ahead with any new truck route proposal, seven council members decided to move ahead anyway and hope for the best.”
The OTA proposed alternative policy options for council to consider, including the introduction of designating the area a community safety zone and photo radar along the current truck route, as well as engaging OTA and other stakeholders to be part of a working group that would review and implement a series of study recommendations contained in a draft engineering report OTA commissioned outlining the traffic modelling and safety issues along the proposed truck route.
“Over two separate council meetings, newly-minted truck safety and truck counts were constantly being trotted out by supporting councillors to justify their support of the new truck route,” explained Laskowski. “This was not an example of evidenced-based policy making.”
To make matters worse, added Laskowski, the data presented to OTA in order to downplay the safety/congestion impact of the proposed truck was based on deflated truck counts using non-statistical methods. “This is not how a proper traffic flow/collision analysis should be conducted.”
To counter the lack of quality data, OTA suggested the City and other stakeholders work jointly on a draft study plan, contained in the OTA engineering report, which would have examined the true traffic flow impact of this decision and possible safety mitigation strategies.
Also appearing before Council was Jim Bailey, father of Dallas Bailey, who passed away in a traffic collision on the Thunder Bay Expressway. Mr. Bailey presented a petition to Council with close to 5,000 names urging, among other recommendations, not to force all truck traffic onto the expressway until certain safety improvements could be made.
Also read into the council record was the fact that all neighbouring mayors opposed the new truck route as well as testimony from a seniors’ group concerned about their ability, as pedestrians, to cross certain portions of the expressway. The Mayor of Thunder Bay joined five other councillors in voting against the proposed truck route. The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, representing local business, had previously submitted testimony strongly opposing the plan as well.
OTA will be reviewing the wording of the bylaw and will monitoring the safety and congestion impacts of the new route when it comes into force.