It was less than a year ago when Miranda Popovic and her father were rear-ended trying to make a left-hand turn on a now-infamous straight stretch of road leading into Omemee.
Ten years earlier, her dad and her brother had been hit in the same area, again making a left hand turn into a driveway.
The family owns a farm west of Omemee, and Popovic has seen too many accidents occur between Reaboro and Omemee over her life time.
Just last month, 22-year-old nursing student Janelle MacPherson was killed in this same area, west of Omemee.
Popovic is happy that up to $35,000 will be spent on an advanced study to find out if improvements planned to Highway 7 will boost economic development in the Eastern Ontario Region, because she knows that it will help safety, too.
“An expansion would be awesome, with farmers and heavy equipment going down that road,” says Popovic, who is the administrative officer for the Lindsay and District Chamber of Commerce.
“The large machines slow up traffic and people are impatient and then they’re passing. Having an extra lane would be safer for everyone,” she says.
One of Lindsay’s most prominent business leaders, Bruce Vandenberg of Mariposa Dairy, agrees with her.
Vandenberg says Lindsay and Peterborough are going to expand greatly in the next 10 years or so, and that means “we need good, safe roads to travel back and forth on.”
Secondly, the businessman says that with a market of nearly 10 million people living within three hours of Kawartha Lakes, there is going to be more vacation traffic, too.
“Not everyone’s going to Muskoka – they come to the Kawarthas too. So we need great roads to accommodate this reality.”
Vandenberg says he doesn’t know if Highway 7 has to expand to four lanes. Instead, he thinks it would be enough to expand it with extended passing lanes and turning lanes to ensure safety, similar to Highway 9 between Orangeville and Newmarket.
“If we do this right, any business set up along the highway shouldn’t have to bear the cost of a turning lane. Don’t leave that to them, give them a turning lane when this is built,” he says.
Vandenberg says a middle turning lane for left hand side business traffic would prevent many accidents.
“Between Omemee and Lindsay, too many people have been killed or injured because of a lack of turning lanes,” he says, echoing the same area mentioned by Popovich.
The Mariposa Dairy owner says expanded highways will help with the volume of extra business. As someone who does business in western Ontario, too, he says they should look at studying a Highway 7 expansion through Oakwood and Sunderland area as well.
“We have milk that comes from western Ontario and there’s no direct way to get it here, so I think we need to study it in both directions.”
Chamber of Commerce Perspective
Mike Perry is the president of the Lindsay and District Chamber of Commerce. He says there’s no doubt that safety comes first in his mind.
“There are some dangerous spots along Highway 7 through Lindsay, Manilla, Oakwood and Omemee, which really need to be addressed,” says Perry.
“More and improved rural infrastructure is good for business in our area, too.”
This study and the resulting development of Highway 7 will be local work, he points out, and he believes Omemee residents and businesses need to be consulted on any development since the highway is “is key to their community.”
Perry believes this study will help find ways to open up Peterborough and eastern Ontario, “for living and working here, doing business, and for tourism.”
“Road development needs to take the environment and green transportation into account as well,” he says.
The chamber president says studies need to result in prompt action based on consultation, given the need for better community infrastructure.
He thinks Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation (KLCFDC) is well suited to lead this initiative, with funding allocated from the Rural Economic Development (RED) program.
RED aims to help rural and Indigenous communities by attracting investment and tourism to grow their economies.