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Ontario weigh stations being rebuilt, relocated

PORT HOPE, Ont. – The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has finalized plans to close the westbound Hwy. 401 inspection station at Bowmanville and move it to the Zion Road area just west of Port Hope. The MTO has completed a...

PORT HOPE, Ont. – The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has finalized plans to close the westbound Hwy. 401 inspection station at Bowmanville and move it to the Zion Road area just west of Port Hope. The MTO has completed a preliminary design and named the 13-hectare site as the preferred location among four other potential candidates.

The new station’s location midway between the Wesleyville and Newtonville Rd. exits on the 401 won’t affect any merging traffic, nor will it mean any great changes to the highway infrastructure. But it also means that trucks coming from Ottawa down 115/35 won’t have to worry about the Bowmanville coops being open after streaming onto the 401.

MTO spokesman Bob Nichols asserts that the present-day Bowmanville location does not meet the needs for inspections in that area and that there isn’t enough room available to upgrade the facility. The bigger site is needed as truck traffic in Ontario has grown by 64% between 1998 and 2008, he says.

The new site will make it easier for officers to conduct the thousands of inspections that ministry officials complete every year at these stations. Located near Zion Road on the outskirts of Port Hope, the new inspection station will include 12 truck bays and a large triage area.

Some objections had been raised about moving the scale to locations in Durham County, but the Northumberland site has only three farms adjacent. According to MTO’s Nichols, a public information consultation outlining the plan held in Newtonville, Ont. on Jan. 23 “was well received by the public.”

However, a dissenting view is held by John O’Toole, MPP for Durham. “There’s absolutely no reason they have to move the station,” he says. “All they have to do is move it a little further west. There’s plenty of room there. Engineers have told me this. What you’re seeing is waste in action.”

Tom Halligan of Port Hope is a little concerned about the new location because it butts against his property. “I’m trying to keep an open mind,” he says. “It’s right on my doorstep, in fact they’re going to take away a chunk of my land to build the thing.” He estimates that the MTO will want about three of his acres, according to the preliminary plan.

“I know that the inspection station has to go somewhere, and as far as that goes I don’t have any objections. It’s the idling trucks and smoke from the exhaust that I’m concerned about,” says Halligan. The new inspection station will be located in an idyllic part of southern Ontario, in the rolling hills of Northumberland County. Halligan’s property actually sits above the proposed site.

“I’ll be looking right down at it. They could hide it from me but I don’t think they’ll go that far,” he says.

Besides aesthetic considerations, the plan also has to deal with possible environmental concerns like leaking fuel tanks and groundwater runoff. The MTO has engaged Dillon Consulting on developing a preliminary plan. Apparently, issues such as landscaping and noise reduction will be addressed during the detailed design process. According to Paul Acquaah, project manager for Dillon Consulting, “Snow drifts (also) come into play. In the area you get a lot a blowing snow. These are all things we have to consider.”

Construction on the new station can begin after an Environmental Assessment, but is also dependent on the acquisition of the land and getting funding from the province. When the new facility is operational, the Bowmanville scale will be closed. This upgrade is part of the MTO’s overall strategy to modernize its inspection facilities province-wide.

Indeed the old-style inspection stations have become obsolete. Prior to the 1990s, the primary focus of these stations was weighing vehicles. Since that time, enforcement has shifted to focusing on driver and mechanical fitness, requiring more space for inspections and detention.

Meanwhile, work goes on at the eastbound Putnam Road inspection station east of London, Ont., which will remain closed until the fall. Redevelopment of the eastbound station is expected to be completed by September 2012. The westbound station will then be closed and replaced by mid-summer 2013.  

Nichols advises that “More mobile patrols are being conducted on Hwy. 401 eastbound and rerouted to maintain effective enforcement (during the construction).

In case you’re wondering about the status of the westbound inspection station at Gananoque, it is no longer used and steps are being taken to decommission it permanently, according to Nichols. He adds, “There is an active planning study on the eastbound Gananoque TIS.”  

That facility is apparently due for a refit after 2015. Two other facilities also slated to undergo upgrading at that time are located in Northern Ontario: at Red Rock on Hwy. 11/17,  and Heyden, Ont. on Hwy. 17.

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