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OPINION: What to do about the 138

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: What to do about the 138

If you asked almost anyone who lives in the United Counties of SD&G to name a well-known road in the area, they would tell you Hwy. 138. For those living in Cornwall, South Stormont, North Stormont, North Glengarry and South Glengarry, it is the main route to get from the south to the north, and from Hwy. 401 to the 417.

Now, if you asked those same people what they thought the most dangerous road in the United Counties was, their answer would probably be the same.

Travelling the 138 is a necessity of life for many in the area, especially for commuters. Unfortunately, there is a risk that comes with taking that stretch of road as we were tragically reminded again last week, when a young 28-year-old school teacher from Embrun lost her life while driving home from her work in Cornwall.

It seems to me that Hwy. 138 is ubiquitous with risk. I know someone who has been in an accident on that road, and I think that almost everyone who travels it regularly has seen something harrowing. We reported last week that in 2019 there were 51 accidents reported on that highway.

What can we do though? The provincial government is responsible for the maintenance of Hwy. 138. What should we be asking them to do about this road?

In recent years, we have heard that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, has plans for future development of the 138. They have told Cornwall City Council that in the area of Headline Rd., they intend to install a roundabout to ease the flow of traffic as it enters the city.

This past summer, Ministry has also installed two parking lots in South Stormont near Hwy. 138 to encourage people who travel and work in Ottawa to carpool. The lots were installed with the express intention of getting people off of the road.

I’m not sure if the amount of traffic is the problem, or if it is the speed at which cars are travelling. Hwy. 138 is a 80km/h zone, but I don’t think that anyone drives along it at that speed.

I think that one thing that may help is stricter enforcement of the speed limit, and maybe increasing the speed limit because most people drive at around 100 km/h on that stretch of road. Just this past weekend, the OPP stopped one driver going 136 km/h on Hwy. 138.

As stated, the reason this road is so frequently travelled is because it is a quick way to get from Hwy. 401 in the south, to Hwy. 417 in the north. The next nearest and quickest direct route between those to four-lane highways is Hwy. 416 near Prescott. I’ve heard the idea floated around that the 138 should become a 400 series four-lane highway as well, but I don’t think this is feasible.

For Hwy. 138 to be expanded to four lanes would require a lot of land on either side of the road to be purchased. This will be very expensive, inconvenient and landowners along the highway that will be affected by the loss of part of their property and putting up with the construction will be up in arms.

I think the only way right now to make Hwy. 138 safer is to install short left-hand lane passing areas at a few different points along the road. I feel that most of the accidents that are happening occur when someone is trying to pass. The solution to this is passing lanes. Increasing the speed limit might help, but it won’t entirely solve the problem, nor will increased enforcement. Those are band aid measures. People are going to drive faster than others, and they will want to pass the slower cars. The only way to ensure that cars can pass each other safely is to install left hand passing lanes to keep them out of oncoming traffic.

What do you think readers? How can we make Hwy. 138 safer? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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Jenni MacDonald, Dominion Lending, Cornwall, Ontario