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Laws and damage are roadblocks to getting farmers to market year-round

While the County wants to support its farming community needing to drive heavy truck loads of produce to markets year round; it must weigh current laws and protect its roads during the most damaging time of the year – spring thaw.

Council had requested staff to investigate ways of maintaining access to markets for local farmers during half-load periods following concerns expressed by farmers about transporting products during spring in a cost-effective manner.

An interim report to be presented at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting states the legal opinion staff has received is that granting exemption from the reduced load period is not consistent with legislated permission granted to the County, and “would have the effect of permitting ongoing, frequent overweight truck traffic on roads that may not be able to support them, and that would damage the surface and structural elements of the roads.”

“Additionally,” said Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works, in his report, “There are concerns that if the County grants the exemption for one business sector, this might constitute sector bonusing, contrary to the Municipal Act, or invite other types of business sectors to make similar requests.”

McAuley notes an alternative to exempting farm commodity exports may be to strengthen key haul roads such that they no longer require a reduced load posting – such as the Ministry of Transportation has done for most provincial highways, and is the case for County Roads 33 and 49, former provincial highways.

He states a list of key farm commodity exporters is being compiled with the assistance of the Community Development and Strategic Initiatives Department so that various proposed haul routes can be examined in more detail for strengthening requirements and a capital expenditure plan can be prepared. This is expected to be before council in mid-2019.

“In the meantime,” his interim report states, “The agricultural community can lobby the provincial government directly for any revisions or exemptions necessary to the Highway Traffic Act to enable them to move commodities to market at full truck weights year round.”

Staff contacted several other municipalities, who indicated they do not grant reduced load exemptions.

“Their opinion generally, was that the reduced load restriction was intended to prevent damage to the roads, particularly during spring thaw,” states the report.

Filed Under: Local News

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