By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Southwold council will have their voices heard – an opportunity to speak with an Ontario government staff about the embattled Glanworth Dr./Hwy. 401 overpass.
The Ministry of Transportation has agreed to meet with members of Southwold council to discuss the plan to demolish the bridge for their Col. Talbot Rd. interchange redevelopment project.
“At least they are going to meet with us and discuss it,” said Ken Loveland, acting clerk and CAO of Southwold Township.
“We’ll have to do a good job convincing them that they need to reconsider their position.”
The MTO plan to demolish the 401 overpass has generated criticism from area farmers who regularly use the bridge for their slow-moving farm equipment. Farmers said removing the overpass will force them to take their heavy machinery on busier roadways – a move they insist will put motorists at risk.
The ministry said their design proposal for the Col. Talbot interchange takes the farmers concerns into account and includes paved shoulders, wide left turn lanes and traffic signals at a nearby intersection to help farmers move their equipment safely. The project is in its early stages and is slated for completion beyond 2018.
Amid mounting public backlash to the plan over the last year, Southwold submitted a formal letter to the MTO about six weeks ago outlining its concerns and requesting a meeting with ministry staff. The letter received support from Elgin county council and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek – who continues to champion efforts to open a dialogue with the ministry.
“I’m hopeful that the MTO will meet with them and discuss options other than taking out the Glanworth bridge as opposed to meeting with them and explaining why they are taking out the bridge,” said Yurek.
“The MTO has to be open to hearing the concerns of the area.”
The date and details of the meeting have not been arranged. Yurek said it is encouraging that so many residents of Elgin county are recognizing the issue and approaching the ministry with their concerns.
“It’s our way of telling the people in Toronto that sometimes its best to let the local people make the decisions about how their transportation systems are going to operate.” he said.
Loveland is hoping to sit down with MTO staff in the near future and has a clear goal in mind for the meeting.
“If you never talk you’re never going to get them to change their mind,” he stressed.
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