By Jeff Labine
Timmins Daily Press

City councillors are searching for solutions to sustain the stretch of highway that goes through Timmins.

One of the possibilities discussed is imposing a toll for heavy loaded trucks.

Heavy massive ore hauling trucks and logging transports are a common sight for those travelling down Highway 101 and Algonquin Boulevard. Another common sight for those travelling down the 21-kilometre road is potholes.

Maintaining the long stretch of road has been a major concern for residents since the responsibility was downloaded onto the municipality by the province years ago. The issue was brought back up at Monday night’s council meeting where a number of councillors voiced frustration that nothing has been done to fix the issue.

Coun. Noella Rinaldo said the main issue she kept hearing during the October municipal election was the condition of Algonquin Boulevard and Highway 101. She explained that the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) has load restrictions to protect certain roads during the spring. Rinaldo argued they have trucks fully loaded coming through the city all year round.

“We don’t qualify under the MTO for load restrictions even in the spring and we technically need them all year,” she said. “I’m asking that we investigate charging a toll or levy on heavy loads travelling through the city. The money would be reinvested and used for repair and maintenance for Highway 101.”

She said she understands that Timmins is a resource-based city but that doesn’t mean companies can’t absorb the cost of the infrastructure which their business depends on too.

“We can’t afford to supplement their business,” she said. “I found an example of a company in Sudbury where they allow them to drive through with no restrictions at a cost $300,000 to $400,000 a year. This is significant dollars. This is more than a drop in the bucket. If we were able to put a toll on these trucks or levy and we allowed them to continue, the road would continue to deteriorate. I think it is time to bring back the discussion of a perimeter road.”

Coun. Pat Bamford pointed out that in the city’s east end, there have been three watermain breaks along connecting link. While there could be many factors, Bamford believes one of the main reasons for the breaks is the heavy trucks that drive down the long stretch of road.

Bamford said current and previous mayors have lobbied for help from the government to no avail. He stressed municipal funding continues to decrease while the cost to maintain the connecting link increases.

“What are we doing? People should be calling us nuts,” he said. “We’re just repairing what I believe is someone else’s road. Most of us think that it is these big trucks 18-wheelers that are causing the trouble. I don’t think it is my little half-ton truck. We have to do something otherwise people are going to call us nuts.”

Bamford said he wants to create a lot of noise about this issue so something can be done. He requested a report looking at the history of the road over the past decade, which would include sewage and water breaks, pot hole and shoulder repairs.

“This is the elephant not in the room but the elephant that’s eating our taxes,” he said. “It’s unfair. It’s unfair to the little guy that’s trying to stay in his house and we’re raising taxes to maintain their highway. Everybody knows the problem. I’m just bringing it out so we can get a report. When the report comes, we create a strategy that engages the entire community. We can’t be embarrassed by this, this is self protection.”