A Bridge Too Far

Peterborough needs to deal with The Parkway extension - just maybe not yet

Jackson Creek Park (photo: Pat Trudeau)
Jackson Creek Park (photo: Pat Trudeau)

Over the last couple of decades or so, environmental consciousness has become more and more mainstream.

Schools have recycling and compost programs, global warming has become a daily discussion, and the value of green space has grown immensely.

As the population grows, we end up with positive and negative effects. If you look at the Kawarthas as an example, it doesn’t take long to realize one of the largest negative effects: traffic management.

Peterborough is unique in that it was a handful of boroughs that grew into each other. This evolution left us with a labyrinth of streets, especially through the downtown core.

Lansdowne Street was long established as the main east-west corridor through the city, and has adapted to increased traffic flow and business growth over the years, leading to what we have today.

In the 1950s the city realized that while east to west was covered, there was no plan in place to handle traffic heading north through the city. Hence, The Parkway was born.

The city’s original plan was to build The Parkway in chunks, beginning with a necessary chunk in the south end and then gradually moving north, creating a direct and efficient way to traverse the city north to south and vice versa.

We all know that in recent memory there’s been a lot of discussion on the extension of The Parkway. People who have homes along the planned route have fought against it, and now people are fighting the city’s plan to study extending the Hospital Drive portion of The Parkway through Jackson Creek Park.

While I agree that I wouldn’t want a road going past my back yard, I didn’t buy a house along the planned route of a road extension. Just because you’ve had the benefit of having homes that back onto green space zoned for road use doesn’t change the fact that the land is zoned for road use. The big issue in the last few weeks has been our council’s plan to study the extension through Jackson Creek.

Jackson Creek is the largest green space in the city. All development in the north end of Peterborough has taken place around it, rather than in it or through it. Now that it’s time to deal with the real issue of traffic management, our choices seem to be build a bridge through the middle of the park or do nothing at all.

I love Jackson Creek. Being an avid photographer, I often go there for inspiration or to clear my head after a long day. Not many cities have the benefit of having a natural resource quite like this in the middle of the city.

However, we have a real issue in this city that’s only going to become worse in the coming years. In parts of the city, our road system is very old and, as a result, the system is inefficient in the modern day. Our city also does a terrible job of maintaining these roads; many are washboarded and filled with potholes.

Last night, I drove down Charlotte Street between George and Park. If I had been doing more than 40 km/h my teeth would have rattled out of my head. It was horrible and not just as the result of the spring thaw. These sorts of road conditions lend to slower traffic, premature vehicle wear and, in some cases, traffic accidents.

Now, if you don’t think we have a problem with traffic in the city, do me a favour: wait until July and park your car in the Lansdowne Place parking lot at 4pm on a Friday. Now time yourself as you drive to the zoo. After you’ve arrived at the zoo, remind me of how well our city manages traffic.

I drive for a living. My job means I’m on the road every day. I’ve witnessed every part of this city in every season, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the problem is real.

So, if we have an issue now, imagine what it will be like if we get a casino or when the 407 ETR is extended to Highway 115.

To reiterate, I love Jackson Creek and I’m not in favour of plowing through a park. But if our options are to build a bridge or do nothing, which is the lesser evil?

Some people believe that under no circumstances should we build through Jackson Park. These same people say that we shouldn’t waste money on studies for solutions. If you’re one of those people, I have to ask: what the hell are we supposed to do about the traffic problem? Ignore it and hope it goes away?

Cycling, carpooling and walking are all great, but they won’t deal with the issue at hand. Cars are not going away and if we want to grow as a city, more cars are going to come. More homes are going to be built, and the city is going to get bigger and bigger. Whether you’re happy about that or not doesn’t really matter. It’s unavoidable.

So here’s the deal: we have a traffic problem, decades of poor road development, and a natural park all hitting heads. It’s a complicated mess.

But the real question we should be asking right now isn’t if we support the extension of The Parkway or if we’re against it. It should be if we trust our current city council — whose track record screams incompetence — to figure out the best solution.

We should be sidelining this issue until we have a new city council that knows how to work with city planners, consult efficiency studies, and actually absorb some public feedback to solve this mess — and not just start swinging axes.