Commuters see red over traffic snarls on Highway 12 in the south end
PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES Cars heading out of the city on Highway 12 south are stopped as the two lanes narrow to one at the bridge over the narrows. Construction is set to be completed on the highway by the end of the month.
Construction along Highway 12/Atherley Road has been a traffic nightmare for commuters heading to Rama or points south along the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe.
Road crews began ripping up an approximately 2.5-kilometre stretch of Highway 12 in the south end of Orillia Tuesday, much to the chagrin of motorists.
“Yesterday it was backed up to Uptergrove!” complained one person on the Packet & Times Facebook page. “Kinda hard to plan an alternate route when there are lakes involved and only (one) bridge in Orillia!”
Traffic wasn’t nearly as snarled Thursday, but delays persisted. The two-minute jaunt across the bridge from Couchiching Point Road to Rama Road would have taken motorists about five to 10 minutes each way, late in the morning.
Work in the area began earlier this summer, according to an Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesperson.
Coco Paving is the contractor being used for the $1.4-million contract, Sadie Lapshinoff of the MTO wrote in an email Thursday. The last time major construction took place on that stretch of road was 2003, she added. This resurfacing is not as significant as the work undertaken 14 years ago.
People also complained about both the difficulty in making deliveries to the businesses in the area, and why the work wasn’t being done at night, when traffic volumes were dramatically lessened and disruptions would be significantly less time consuming.
“With respect to daytime closures, this construction contract allows for daytime closures,” Lapshinoff wrote. “The ministry determined that daytime closures would be permitted based on the results from an analysis of hourly volume counts. We ask for drivers’ patience and understanding while we complete this important work.”
The project was originally planned for 2016. In February of that year, Orillia city council approved a noise-bylaw exemption, allowing crews to undertake night work on the highway. Lapshinoff confirmed that exemption is still in place.
Despite signs appearing on Highway 12 in advance of the construction, motorists were still caught off guard. The OPP took to issuing a news release Wednesday, asking motorists not to call into the provincial communications centre nor the local detachment to report the slow downs.
As well, Orillia Transit has temporarily revised its South Route, with its buses not travelling down Atherley Road east of Bayview Parkway. The Sophie’s Landing and Atherley Road at Tudhope Park stops are impacted.
Construction is expected to wrap up by the end of September, weather permitting.
Motorists who utilize the western portion of Highway 12 through the city, between Highway 11 and Fairgrounds Road, should brace themselves for similar delays next year, when construction delayed from 2017 begins in the city’s west end.