Fred Koster, chair of the Selwyn Business Association, is praising Peterborough County council for its recent decision to remove the Bridgenorth bypass from the county’s transportation plan, after years of having it on the books, saying that village businesses will now thrive.
The county has, instead, decided to widen Ward Street through Bridgenorth.
“Thank you for finally recognizing the detriment that the long proposed Bridgenorth bypass has been on the village of Bridgenorth,” wrote Koster in a letter to be presented to county council at its Wednesday meeting.
“We congratulate you on exercising a common-sense approach to this white elephant that has, over the past decades, consumed more than a million dollars of hard earned tax payers’ dollars.”
Calling the bypass an “ill-conceived approach to traffic control,” Koster states there has been a lack of development in Bridgenorth because of its threat.
“That is now behind us thanks to your decision.”
The proposed Bridgenorth bypass and the proposed expansion of the James A. Gifford Causeway to four lanes were both removed from the county’s transportation master plan list of projects for roadway upgrades at the March 2 council meeting.
In its five-year review of development charges, county council decided, in a motion from Deputy Warden and Selwyn Township Mayor Andy Mitchell, to instead go forward with Ward Street corridor improvements in Bridgenorth.
The County Road 18 bypass of Bridgenorth was a planned road that had been contentious for years. It would divert traffic from Chemong Road, near Lindsay Road, to the outside of Bridgenorth on its east side and to the causeway over Chemong Lakes.
It would bypass residential and commercial areas of the village and was meant to resolve congestion at the causeway turn during busy cottage country traffic times.
But Koster states in his letter, “The summer tourist traffic is a blessing to the village and the widening of Ward Street will encourage more people to visit our wonderful village.”
He told The Examiner the idea of a bypass around small communities in Ontario has led from one ghost town to another wherever it has been done and businesses have withered up and closed.
“In spite of statistics to prove this, the county maintained that this would be a godsend to help the business community. Could you imagine?,” said Koster who has been a business owner in Bridgenorth for more than 20 years and currently owns the Chemong Medical Centre and Beer Store Plaza.
Now that the bypass has been cancelled, association members are hoping Bridgenorth businesses will reinvest in their enterprises and new businesses will also appear “knowing that there is a future.”
While traffic can be busy at certain times, it supports the local business community, Koster said.
“We have three gas stations, which is more than we need for the local residents, but because of transient traffic they all thrive,” Koster said. “We also have a high number of eateries but traffic sustains them. Each of these businesses look forward to the three or four laning of Ward Street.”
The removal of the proposed bypass will also prevent a possible threat to the sensitive Snelgrove Wetland and the Miller Creek Conservation Area, which are part of a large aquifer that supplies thousands of wells in the area with clean drinking water, he said.
The bypass had been slated to be built through that, he said.
“The decision to widen Ward Street is the right one, and will generate interest, confidence, and development in the village,” Koster states in his letter.
“We have been given the opportunity to return to a healthy business community.”