Cycling Advocates continue to petition for paved shoulders

Riders make their way in cycling packs up Highway 6 towards Manitowaning.

MTO says no plans for paving Hwy 540 shoulders

MANITOULIN—While the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA), along with local municipalities, are petitioning the province for paved shoulders on Highway 540, an official with the Ministry of Transportation said the province does not have any plans at the current time to construct paved shoulders on Highway 540.

“The highway and shoulders were paved between M’Chigeeng and Mindemoya last year, and the idea was to have this done Island-wide, then dropped once this paving was done,” said Billings Councillor Brian Parker at a regular council meeting last week.

“Highway 540 is the only highway that connects the West End and east ends of the Island,”stated Councillor Tom Imrie.

It was also pointed out that Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, along with Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, the Manitoulin Municipal Association and individual Island municipalities have previously supported the MICA call for paved shoulders on Highway 540.

“It will be too bad if they (MTO) don’t do it,” said Councillor Parker. “It is a safety issue as well as benefitting recreationally.”

Council agreed to pass another resolution which states, “council directs the clerk treasurer to write to MPP Michael Mantha, MP Carol Hughes, Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Minister of Transport and the municipalities served by Highway 540 requesting once again the MTO provide bike lanes on the shoulders of Highway 540 during repair and confirm this in writing to the affected municipalities, copied to the MMA.”

“We have lobbied twice before for paving of the shoulders of Highway 540, and Mr. Mantha has brought this forward twice before,” said Maja Mielonen of MICA. “And numerous resolutions have been passed by Manitoulin (and First Nations) along with Tourism Ontario and the Sudbury District Health Unit in favour of paved shoulders on Highway 540. We sent all this information to the minister last fall, and resent it to Premier Wynne in January, “but we have received no responses.”

“There is a stretch of about 16 to 18 kilometres where work is being done to repair roads and these paved shoulders need to be added on to this work,” said Ms. Mielonen. She pointed out paved shoulders were put in place for Highway 6 on Manitoulin and the Tobermory area to link to the Georgian Bay Cycling Route, but “we need this link to continue this to provincial highways in areas like Gore Bay.”

“The province is pumping millions of dollars for infrastructure in southern Ontario, but the North deserves funding as well,” said Ms. Mielonen. “We want to see Manitoulin being considered as a top cycling destination.”

“We were the forerunners and trend setters on this initiative,” said Ms. Mielonen. She said tourism has increased on Manitoulin due to bicycling and noted that some accommodation businesses, “say that up to 20 percent of their accommodations are made up of those who cycle.”

On the MICA website it states: “MICA is very pleased to see unanimous municipal support for paved shoulders on Highway 540 as it will receive resurfacing between 2016-2018. Paved shoulders dramatically increases the safety of all road users and are making the new one metre passing laws a lot easier for all our automobiles, big trucks and tandem trailers. MICA has forwarded all the municipal resolutions to the minister of Transportation.

MICA has a petition/prepared letter that those in favour of the paved shoulders for Highway 540 can send to the minister at www.manitoulincycling.

com click on the link “paved shoulders Highway 540” and send the prepared letter directly to the Minister of Transportation.

Gordan Rennie of the MTO, in an email to the Recorder Monday, explained, “the Ministry of Transportation is committed to encouraging and expanding safe cycling in the province. As part of the multi-year #CycleOn Action Plan 1.0, MTO is investing $25 million over three years to build cycling infrastructure. This includes $15 million for provincial cycling infrastructure and the $10 million Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program (OMCIP).”

On April 1, 2015 the Ministry of Transportation announced some initial projects for the $15 million investment. “Currently, the ministry is working on improving Highway 33 west of Kingston, which is part of the Waterfront Trail; the Thousand islands Parkway structure over Highway 137, which is part of the Waterfront Trail; Highway 6 on Manitoulin and south of Highway 17 at Espanola, which is part of the Georgian Bay Cycling Route; Highway 17B and Highway 17 between Sault Ste. Marie and Espanola, which is part of the Lake Huron North Channel Cycling Route,” continued Mr. Rennie.

“Key factors for project selection included locations that are on provincially recognized cycling routes and on the current provincial highway rehabilitation program,” wrote Mr. Rennie. “A focus on existing recognized cycling routes will help us ensure alignment with the future province-wide cycling network.”

“To improve cycling infrastructure in Ontario, the ministry is working toward identifying a province-wide network and provincial barriers to local cycling networks,” wrote Mr. Rennie. “Consultations on the network project are expected to start in spring 2016. In addition to the work underway on provincial infrastructure, the province-wide cycling network plan will help guide future investments in cycling facilities on provincial highways.”

“The $10 million Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program was launched in 2015. Under this new program, municipalities could apply for funding for up to 50 percent of the total eligible costs of a cycling infrastructure project to a maximum amount of $325,000. The ministry was very pleased that many municipalities from across the province applied. Applicants were notified of the results on March 11, 2016 and we look forward to seeing these projects put into action. At this time, the minister is not constructing paved shoulders on Highway 540,” added Mr. Rennie.