County talking traffic with Arbour Farms

A gravel pit proposed in Mulmur would add about 14 trucks per hour onto Airport Road.

That’s only if Arbour Farms hauled the maximum tonnage proposed within its aggregate licence application, or what has been described as the “absolute worst-case” scenario by company principal Adam Krehm.

“We expect to operate at 30 per cent of our tonnage, which would yield something slightly more than four trucks per hour,” he said. “It’s a very safe, conservative reckoning of how many trucks will come and go from that pit.”

Despite Krehm’s estimate, members of county council have some concerns about the proposal and its potential impact on the traffic patterns of Airport Road.

According to traffic counts from 2011, about 3,826 vehicles, 257 of which are considered heavy trucks, travel on Airport Road past the proposed gravel pit’s entrance per day.

“(That’s) generally representative of what we see on (Airport Road) in the area of the proposed pit,” Scott Burns, Dufferin’s director of public works, said in an email.

Add the potential for another 14 trucks per hour — although Krehm says the true impact is closer to a little more than four — and that has served to raise some alarm bells for county council.

So far, county officials have requested Arbour Farms pay for acceleration and deceleration lanes near the proposed pit’s entrance on Airport Road. An agreement setting out those responsibilities, however, has yet to be signed.

“We’re working through the final details, I hope, of the entrance design and what improvements will be required,” Krehm said. “It’s a work in progress. There has been nothing resolved as of yet.”

At this point, the county’s discussions with Arbour Farms have revolved around the proposed gravel pit’s entrance, “and nothing beyond that,” Burns explained.

That may be subject to change. County council has instructed Burns to see if Arbour Farms will commit to more road upgrades, plus contribute to maintenance costs on top of that.

“Woah, woah, woah, that’s news to me,” Krehm said. “There has been no discussion that I’m aware of works beyond improvements to the public road at or around our entrance.”

Burns declined to reveal exactly what other improvements county council wants to see Arbour Farms undertake. That would be determined through negotiation.

“The new concern would be primarily the use of Airport Road as a haul route,” Burns said. “We plan to discuss these items with Arbour Farms in an effort to reach an agreement to help with the increased burden on affected roads due to their trucks.”

At this point, Krehm said Arbour Farms plans to keep trucks off Airport Road during weekends, when collision rates are higher than King’s Highway averages.

The company is willing to consider doing “a little bit” more in road improvements than what the county first requested near its entrance, “but not hugely beyond,” Krehm said.

Arbour Farms, which has investigated operating a gravel pit in Mulmur for more than a decade, re-filed its application for an aggregate licence in January.

The company applied for a 103-acre aggregate licence to haul up to 500,000 tons of aggregate per year. It also wants to extract aggregate 20 metres below the water table.

“There is a lot of concern out there,” Krehm said. “I think the breadth and depth of the problem has been overblown.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) hasn’t approved the application. Arbour Farms has until 2015 to address all the comments it received from those in opposition during a 45-day commenting period under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) that ended on Feb. 25.

“The application is still active,” MNR spokesperson Jolanta Kolawski confirmed in an email. “The applicant is attempting to resolve all objections.”