CORNWALL, Ontario – One of the most frequently used highways in our region, Hwy 138, is garnering scrutiny following an accident that resulted in a fatality earlier this week.
According to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), the fatality on Feb. 24 was the first in over two years on the highway. However, 2019 saw a total of 51 accidents take place on the highway, averaging almost one accident per week.
After just two months into 2020, six accidents have already occurred on the highway.
An MTO spokesperson could not comment on how many individuals were injured during the 2019 accidents, or the extent of any injuries sustained, but did maintain that most did result in property damage.
“The Ministry takes all collisions very seriously and will continue working with the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry and the OPP to review areas for improvement,” said Brandy Duhaime, Regional Communications Coordinator of MTO, Eastern Region.
Seaway News reported that 46 accidents occurred on Hwy 138 in 2017. In 2018, 48 accidents occurred on the highway, with 10 resulting in non-fatal injuries. According to statistics over the past three years, the rate of accidents on Hwy 138 increases every year.
“The ministry has been working at developing a longer term plan for operational improvements along Hwy 138. The Transportation Environmental Study Report (TESR) was published in June 2017 and received Environmental Assessment approval in April 2018,” said Duhaime in July 2018, referring to a study conducted on the highway with projected improvement strategies.
So far, MTO has built two commuter lots in South Stormont, one off of Brookdale Ave. and one north of the intersection in St. Andrews, in an attempt to alleviate traffic along the busy corridor.
“Two new commuter parking lots were built on Hwy 138 in 2019 to help promote car pooling and to help provide safe areas for commuters to park. These car pool lots at St. Andrews and at Hwy 401 in Cornwall are being well used,” said Duhaime.
South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis and Deputy Mayor David Smith both expressed that commuter lots are not enough to resolve the issues on Hwy 138, and feel that more needs to be done in a timely manner.
“We told (transportation officials) we appreciate the fact they did an assessment…since the last assessment they built the parking lots. (The lots) are going to help but they haven’t yet…that’s not enough,” said Deputy Mayor David Smith. “We need to increase signage…and make it much clearer. Let people know it’s a dangerous highway, you can’t pass in a turning lane… it’s the drivers that need the education.”
Mayor McGillis feels that for the cost of two commuter lots, a roundabout could have been constructed at Headline Rd. and Hwy 138, as he feels that intersection is a priority.
“Personally (commuter lots) wasn’t a priority as far as I was concerned. I think (MTO) should have gotten right to the issues where the traffic problems (are),” said McGillis.
Duhaime explained that the timing of construction for the other improvements identified are subject to approvals. The approved plan includes the following projects:
- A new roundabout at the intersection of Headline Rd. and Hwy 138
- Minor improvements to the Dundas St. (County Rd. 18) intersection, including measures to help protect the historically significant cemetery wall in St. Andrews West
- Addition of a northbound passing lane, stretching approximately 2 km from 500m north of Myers Rd./McPhail Rd. to approximately 200m north of Cameron Rd.
- Addition of southbound passing lane, stretching approximately 1.7 km between 200m south of County Rd. 43 (Monkland) to approximately 200m south of McDonald Rd.
“The recommended plan (also) includes intersection improvements, left-turn slip around lanes, entrance modifications and drainage improvements at intersections throughout the corridor of study,” said Duhaime.