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TBM residents express concerns about Bay St. E. reconstruction project

Narrow and tree-lined, Bay Street East will see some significant changes to accommodate underground infrastructure work that is required
Bay Street East in Thornbury will need to be reconstructed due to significant underground infrastructure work that is required.

A major road and infrastructure project in Thornbury is generating plenty of concern in the local community that will be impacted by the construction work.

The Town of The Blue Mountains held a special public information centre to gather community input on the Bay Street East reconstruction project that will be proceeding over the next two years.  

The two-hour virtual meeting featured a presentation of project options by town staff and engineers that lasted for an hour. The second hour of the meeting was an opportunity for local residents to ask questions and indicate their concerns.

The town is embarking on the reconstruction of Bay Street East as part of major underground infrastructure upgrades needed for the town’s water and sewage treatment system.

The sewage force main that conveys wastewater to the treatment plant is undersized and must be replaced in order to accommodate future growth and development in the community. The underground watermains in the area have also outlived their useful lives and must be replaced.

The town must also upgrade the sewage pumping station at Mill Street and Bay Street as well, although that work is a separate project.

Town officials presented a number of potential options for the project. They are recommending that underground infrastructure continue to run up Bay Street East to Grey Street and then up to the sewage treatment plant. This will result in Bay Street East being rebuilt and they presented a number of potential options for how the road could look in the future.

Residents attending the meeting expressed numerous concerns about the impact the reconstruction of the road would have on the local neighbourhood. Many residents who spoke at the meeting urged project designers and town staff to come up with unique solutions to address local concerns and avoid sticking to the town’s design standards too rigidly.

Currently, Bay Street East is a narrow, tree-lined road with no sidewalks or curbs. Bringing the road up to full town standards would include the addition of curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes, drainage improvements and a wider road.

Officials working on the project acknowledged that there would be significant impacts to the road regardless of the option selected.

“The challenge and opportunity we have here is to design a new street that meets the design inputs and considerations,” said project engineer Jamie Witherspoon. “This project will change the existing look of Bay Street East.”

The presentation included a number of options for the road that ranged from full town standards (bike lanes, sidewalk and curbs) to possibilities that deviated from the complete implementation of full town design standards. These included: the possibility of a combined bike trail/walking path and/or a one-way street and a narrower road.

Council will make the ultimate decision on the design choice for the road.

The present configuration of the road is complicating the redesign that is required. At this time, Bay Street East is offset from the actual town right away. Witherspoon explained that telephone poles running along the street are actually in the centre point of the right away and he noted that some snow was likely being pushed onto private property during the winter months when it is removed from the road. In addition, significant trees and brush have grown alongside the road and are in the town right away where the reconstruction work will take place.

Town officials said there would be tree loss as part of the project. A tree inventory has been completed and a tree protection plan will be prepared as part of the work. However, the bottom line remains: there will be changes coming.

“We recognize the road is a certain way. It’s very difficult for us, as the town, to put something back in place like this,” said Jeff Fletcher, the town’s acting operations director.

The meeting was the first public information centre about the project. A follow up report will go to council in May. A second public information centre will be held in August/September with more detailed designs and estimates for the work. Tenders for the project are expected to go out in early 2025 with construction taking place in the spring/summers of 2025 and 2026.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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