Improving rural road safety has a long way to go

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

In 2023, the Ontario Good Roads Association is celebrating its 129th anniversary. While the Good Roads movement began in the 1870s in Rhode Island, by 1894, it was particularly strong in Ontario, where wheelmen, riding clubs, and manufacturers sought to protect their interests from legislative discrimination. At the same time, wanting to capitalize on exploding yields, farmers clung to the hopes that better roads would allow them to get products to market faster.

Good Roads established the groundwork for the province’s modern road and highway network and for giving way to what we recognize as the boss of today’s roads and transportation system in Ontario – the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO).

Over 13 million registered vehicles drive Ontario’s 302,864 kilometers of municipal roadway. Of that total, just over 74,000 kilometers in the province remain unpaved. It would cost over $109 billion to replace the nearly 303,000 kilometers of Ontario’s roads. Currently, there’s a $39 billion backlog in maintenance.

MTO’s 2019 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report shows that there were 428 traffic fatalities on Ontario roadways. This number is staggering, given just over 13 percent of Ontarians live in rural municipalities. One would think city roads would be far more dangerous given the volume and congestion; however, nearly 48 percent (205) fatalities occurred on rural roads.

One of the main reasons for the disproportionate numbers is that accidents on rural roads tend to happen at a higher rate of speed because those roads are less congested. Other factors that make rural roads more dangerous include speed limits, fewer signs and traffic controls, poor lighting, and wildlife.

Haldimand-Norfolk boasts mainly rural roads, which unfortunately see a fair share of bad accidents. We can all pinpoint areas of concern, but I know the majority of traffic complaints that make their way to my office are in Haldimand County. We all know the Highway 6 corridor, specifically Hagersville north to Hamilton, has made headlines too many times.

The call for traffic light installation at Highway 6 and Haldibrook Road still needs to be answered. The MTO stated they planned to install traffic lights at the hazardous intersection “as soon as possible.”

Despite applying pressure to the MTO, the most recent correspondence to my office has been that the installation has been prioritized. Still, a definitive timeline for the installation has yet to be determined. Caledonia Councillor Dan Lawrence, rightfully as frustrated as I, commented that “as soon as possible” could equate to 30 years from now. That’s a lot of time for accidents and, God forbid, casualties.

This week, Haldimand County was at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association meetings in Toronto. Although not granted a meeting with MTO, delegates could hopefully bend the government’s ear on these roadways that require immediate attention. I assure you I will continue pressuring the Ministry to address our riding’s major traffic concerns.

After 129 years, Good Roads continues its excellent work and has collected research on projects implemented worldwide that are viable in Ontario and may work in Haldimand-Norfolk. I will be taking some of these ideas and research forward to make the roads of our beautiful riding safer for all.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk