Politicians look for cheaper ways to keep cyclists safe

Lambton County politicians are trying to find a way to make the roads safe for cyclists without spending a lot of money.

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold has been championing the idea of paving four feet of the shoulders on the county roads to give cyclists some room. He had convinced councilors of the idea until staff returned with what it might cost. Jim Kutyba, general manager of infrastructure for Lambton, says paving the shoulders in any road project is equivalent to adding another lane of highway. To pave the shoulder without adding money to the budget would mean reducing the number of kilometers paved by a third. That would mean the average road would not be repaved for between 27 and 29 years.

The idea was returned to the committee level to see what could be done. It was clear county councilors were not prepared to pave every shoulder. “I have reservations waiting 20 years to resurface highways and definitely not 27 to 29 years,” says Lambton Shores Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Davis Dagg. “It’s a luxury we can’t afford in these economic times.”

But some councilors, including Arnold, thought there might be another way. “I offer to the committee instead of going to the 4 foot shoulder maybe another foot or foot and a half…that if we have two and a half or three feet (for shoulders) so we have safety for our people,” says Arnold.

It’s not clear if that is technically possible. Kutyba says the paving equipment can only put down asphalt a certain width and he wasn’t sure how wide that was. Kutyba will investigate and report back to the committee.

But some councilors also believe asphalt – which is the most expensive road surfacing product – may not be necessary. “Why does it have to be a paved shoulder?” asked Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott. “Why not a finer aggregate …why can’t we use a material like dolomite…it is just about as good of a path without the cost of asphalt.”

County staff will also look into the savings.

Warden Todd Case adds that some of the shoulders could still be paved, at the request of council. “There is nothing stopping us from bringing up a certain road to ask for a report on that certain road to see if there is a need for a larger shoulder or a different aggregate,” says Case. “There is nothing stopping us from saying that stretch of road it should have a four foot shoulder.”