By Jenn Watt
May 10, 2016
Haliburton’s Head Lake Bridge is in the midst of construction again. By the end of June, workers should have the second part of the project complete, ensuring our safe passage from east to west and back again.
For the frustration it causes, the work is essential and will be enjoyed long after we forget the traffic jams that slow our morning and evening commute home.
But what the backups and delays illuminate is a gap in our village’s infrastructure.
Part of the reason the construction on the bridge seems like such an imposition is because there is no way around it. Aside from driving from, say, the Beer Store to Ingoldsby, down Kashagawigamog Road to Gelert Road and back (easily a 20-minute drive), the only way from west to east is over the bridge.
Of course, in this scenario that route is a bit excessive, but what if something happened to the bridge that cut the route off completely? A natural disaster or major accident could easily restrict access to the bridge and therefore any traffic flow on County Road 21.
Luckily, our emergency services have already thought of that. If the need arises, a one-lane road connecting College Drive to Museum Road could be opened to let vehicles through. It’s a seldom used option, but one that exists for just such an occasion.
Still, it seems odd that the town does not have another way around the lake. Any obstruction near that juncture in 21 and traffic backs up until it is cleared. There are no detours available for minor emergencies.
A big part of the reasoning behind the current configuration is an aversion to a bypass. If a route was created that too easily avoided the downtown core, many would choose that option. Perhaps businesses would pop up on the bypass and shoppers would drain from the main street.
This is a well-founded concern. So many towns have seen their downtowns hollowed out when an easier way was created. Haliburton doesn’t need that.
But to have no second way around the lake seems like an opportunity missed. Even a winding, circuitous route complete with speed bumps and other restrictions would give a feasible alternative.
Haliburton Village’s beauty is partially due to its well managed main street. Highland and Maple is the cross-section of two main arteries through cottage country and brings with it tourists and shoppers.
That should not be changed.
But without a secondary route, there will always be the chance of a major traffic snarl on 21.
It leaves one to wonder whether having only one way is still the best way.