Residents question Highway 60 project noise
By Sue Tiffin
Council has asked staff for more information about a request to bypass the noise bylaw after hearing concerns from the Oxtongue Lake community about potential noise caused by a Highway 60 rehabilitation project.
According to a staff report brought to Algonquin Highlands council on May 2 by David Rogers, chief building official, the Ministry of Transportation is conducting the rehabilitation project on almost 21 km of Highway 60 from the intersection of Highway 35 to the Algonquin Park gates from May 2020 to September 2020. The project will include the use of excavators, backhoes, dump trucks, soil compactors and diesel generators.
An ask has been made from the MTO to be exempt from the noise bylaw, for an extension of work hours from July 18 to Sept. 7 in order to complete the work as quickly as possible. Rogers said the request is a standard one.
Normal hours of operation due to a municipal noise bylaw allows for work between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no construction on weekends, long weekends and early end times on Friday, but the request asks for the option to work extended hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Thursday.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux said she had spoken to a “good number” of residents in Oxtongue Lake about the construction and potential noise disruption. She said while residents were grateful that work would be done on the road and that the intention was to get it done quickly, they had some questions.
“The devil’s in the detail for a lot of folk,” said Dailloux. “They’re obviously concerned about the noise continuing on until fairly late at night. The general consensus in the community has been, could we ask for a little bit more information from the ministry before making a final decision and the reason for that is three-fold.”
The first point, Dailloux said, was that “generally people are saying, wouldn’t it be nice if they could speed, speed, speed through the work until they hit the settlement of Oxtongue Lake and then go down to regular working hours again so that there isn’t the noise going through the entire settlement for an undisclosed period of time as of yet, and then, as soon as they pass, continue on at the higher rate of speed.”
She said the concern about that possible strategy was whether or not the nearby pit would be used.
“If they’re planning on using the [pit], which is very loud and the noise does carry considerably, if that’s a July through September activity until 11 o’clock at night, then the good folks of Oxtongue Lake are saying, please, help us to salvage our summer and not allow that to happen.”
Point number two, said Dailloux, is that on the assumption the pit would not be used late at night, and the increased rate could happen, residents were asking how much time would be required.
“If it’s one night that they’re going to be working until 11 p.m. then maybe that would be a great thing, just get it done and over with, but if it’s over a two-week period of time, that’s quite different.”
Dailloux noted that Oxtongue Lake is home to about seven or eight resorts hosting about 1,000 people a night in the summertime, with most of those visitors coming for a week.
“So if you can imagine, you’ve got a week off for your summer vacation, you go up to the Blue Spruce or to Lakewoods or whatever it is and and you’ve got that noise going until 11 o’clock every night on your vacation, that’s a complaints list as long as my arm and it’s a hit to livelihoods potentially for the next summer. So they’re really worried about how long the work will overlap at the settlement itself.”
The third point, Dailloux said, was that the construction schedule might coincide with “leaf-chasing season,” which is already busy with cars and extra traffic, which meant that it might be better to rush through as quickly as possible.
“Those are all very good points,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt, agreeing that more details would give residents the information they needed.