Support Shakespeare Now!

Sep 24, 2009

By Dale Goldhawk

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I talked to Kevin Bentley from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, on Monday, September 21. He is manager of engineering for the southwest region of the ministry and tells me, without equivocation, that the preferred new route for Highway 7 – 8 has been boiled down to the current path through the little village of Shakespeare, Ontario. No alternatives are being looked at. This route entails the widening of the highway to four lanes and a turning lane which could destroy much of Shakespeare. It is time to head off the ministry and this blinkered point of view.

Hear my interview with Mr. Bentley here:

If the highway were widened through this village, I have little doubt that most of the main street would be torn down. After all, the ministry owns a right of way which is 30 metres wide and it would likely need every metre of that to accommodate two additional lanes of through traffic and one turning lane along what is now the business section and main street of Shakespeare. Once more, vehicle traffic would trump the lifestyle of people who choose to live in our smallest communities.

The decision about what will happen to Highway 7 and 8 between Stratford, Ontario, and New Hamburg, has been wending its way through the process for years. It is now going through an Environmental Assessment which will wrap up in about a year, according to Mr. Bentley. But local residents have only until the end of October – only weeks away, to make their feelings known. It seems to me it is high time for the Perth East and Perth County Councils to take interest in this process and speak up on behalf of residents of Shakespeare.

The surprising thing to me is that local governments have done nothing to this point to express any opposition or even concerns to the ministry. Mr. Bentley told me local governments are taking a ‘wait and see approach’ to learn the results of the ongoing environmental assessment process. In my opinion, the time for waiting is done.

No one knows when the decision might be implemented; it could be a year or twenty years before the road is actually widened. But, if it happens, there would be no really safe way the children on one side of that four or five lane highway could cross the road to get to and from their school on the other side. Imagine the only traffic light for kilometers on a four lane expressway. There would be no way residents could continue to use their church when the road passes within inches of its doorway. There could be no way to save Fryfogel’s Tavern down the road a bit – the most important historic building in Perth County, according to the local historical society. The popular antique shops will be gone. There would be, sadly, no reason for Shakespeare to continue to exist, after 177 years in that place.

Mr. Bentley admits candidly,” There is going to be impact no matter what the alternative may be at the end of the day” He adds the ministry will do what it can to lessen the impacts and that, “We are open for comment on that plan.”

Residents have until the end of October to make their views known and they need the support of their local politicians – the ones who sit in Perth East Council. These are the councilors who have refused to speak with me on Goldhawk Fights Back on AM740. These are the local representatives who have not spoken up for their constituents in Shakespeare. These are the people who might hold sway with the Ministry of Transportation. The OPEN sign is out for Shakespeare so let’s move before it is turned to CLOSED.

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