Publisher’s Column: Keep Pressing MTO for those Stoplights on Highway 6

By John Francis

At MNBP Council’s Strategic Planning Workshop back in November, Councillor Todd Dowd stressed the importance of picking the low-hanging fruit. There are a bunch of things that need to be done that are easy to do and would offer big paybacks in public safety.

First on his list: putting 911 street address signs on all farm fields and also on places where people might be working in the bush — to help emergency responders find them in case of emergency. (Everybody in the room thought “Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?”)

Stoplights at Ferndale and at Hay Bay Road in Tobermory were two more easy fixes with big payoffs, he said. We need to keep pushing MTO. 

Traffic moves too fast, especially through Ferndale, he said. We need ways to slow that traffic down. A stoplight would change the way people see the road and reduce how fast they expect to drive. We need to keep reminding MTO how important these stoplights would be to public safety.

Proof of concept: When Councillor Smokey Golden came back to Council four years ago (after a 15-year hiatus), she emphasized how badly we needed a new daycare in Tobermory. She pointed out that the school was originally designed to accommodate a daycare, so there was plenty of room for it. Everybody around the table agreed, but she didn’t leave it there. She lobbied tirelessly, pushed the school board, pushed our MPP, prodded Council to reaffirm its support and — lo and behold! — four years later, construction is underway.

So I think Councillor Dowd is on to something. Keep pushing. Don’t let them get comfortable ignoring you.

But I didn’t realize how important that light in Ferndale would be until the new Peacock’s opened in Tobermory.

To get to Peacock’s, you now have to walk on Highway 6.

Just like they do in Ferndale.

Except that in Tobermory, the speed limit is 50. It’s 60 in Ferndale. In Tobermory we have 5 feet of pavement outside the driving lines. In Ferndale they have about 3 feet.

I have discovered that it’s disconcerting to walk within a few feet of traffic moving at 60 to 80 km/hr (which is the speed most cars are moving as they go past Peacock’s). I can only imagine what it must be like in Ferndale, where few cars are doing less than 75 and a lot of them are still doing 100 or more.

Sorry, Ferndale. All these years I didn’t realize how scary that must be.

I think Councillor Dowd is right — a stoplight at the intersection in Ferndale would slow traffic down significantly and make it feel a lot safer to walk or cycle around the village.

And a light at the Head Street/Hay Bay Road intersection in Tobermory would be a huge bonus several different ways. It would allow pedestrians to cross the highway safely. It would allow traffic on Head Street to turn left onto the highway. It would slow highway traffic down in the village.

But the new Peacock’s store is half a kilometre further out. What could we do to slow the traffic down out there?

A few years ago, MTO responded to a request for a lower speed limit on Highway 6 around the Maple Golf subdivision by saying that a lower speed limit would be a bad idea because many people would ignore it and it’s not safe to have people driving at different speeds.

If that idea has any validity — which I doubt — the problem could be solved effortlessly by putting a stoplight at the Warner Bay Road/Little Cove Road intersection. Speed limit 60 from there in. Another stoplight at Cape Hurd Road. Speed limit 50 from there in.

It would make things a lot more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists, which I think will become increasingly important with the supermarket so much closer to several residential areas.

Another thing that would help a lot — in Ferndale and Tobermory both — is an actual sidewalk in places where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic beside the highway. The road allowance is plenty wide enough; they just need to extend one of the shoulders an extra few feet for pedestrians. Another thing to push for.

But we need to make it plain that stoplights at Ferndale and Hay Bay Road are the highest priorities.

* * * * *

While I’m on the subject of pedestrians and cyclists:

I notice that MNBP’s proposed 2023 budget includes a very modest increase, perhaps even less than inflation. And this at a time when infrastructure construction cost increases are coming in far above inflation.

If we want improvements to playgrounds, pickleball courts, walking trails, boat launches, sidewalks, viewing platforms, Lion’s Head Beach Park and all the rest — shouldn’t we maybe give Council and staff a bit more money to work with? At least enough to hire engineers and architects so we can have some actual plans in hand for next year?