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Nothing but headaches at Harmony/Bloor intersection

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

It appears the region is at the mercy of the province in alleviating some of the headaches motorists face in the area of Harmony Road and Bloor Street in Oshawa.

According to a staff report, approximately 45,000 vehicles travel in the vicinity of the intersection on a daily basis, 27,000 on Harmony Road and 18,000 on Bloor Street. The highest volume occurs between 8 to 9 a.m., and 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.

Vehicles traveling both westbound and eastbound endure significant delays when making left-hand turns onto the access ramp to the westbound 401.

Westbound vehicles turning left in the morning peak face an average delay of around five minutes, while eastbound vehicles are delayed by an average of two and a half minutes.

A preliminary design and environmental assessment study completed by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in 2015 recommended several improvements in the area including new ramps to the westbound 401 for southbound Harmony Road traffic and westbound Bloor Street traffic.

The Ministry also proposes replacing the existing eastbound 401 off-ramp to Harmony and Bloor to redirect motorists away from the main intersection.

But Moin Khan, a senior issues advisor for the MTO told The Oshawa Express in December 2017 that no timeline has been set for these improvements.

During a recent committee of the whole meeting, Oshawa Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki says he’s waited more than 20 years to see improvements.

“We’ve been trying since 1995 to get something done in regards to the interchange at Bloor and Harmony. Since then I’ve looked at two different designs that were supposed to come into being under two different governments and they never happened,” he says.

Despite his frustration, Pidwerbecki believes the MTO is now much more aware of the frustrating situation.

The much-maligned interchange was a topic of conversation between regional staff and the new Minister of Transportation Kathryn McGarry at the Good Roads Conference earlier this year.

The updated interchange is seemingly some time away, and for that reason, regional staff has made several recommendations to address the situation in the interim.

In an attempt to influence driver behaviour and reduce the frequency of southbound rear-end collisions on Harmony Road,  staff are considering options for a Queue End Warning System (QWS) and speed display devices to advise southbound Harmony Road motorists of the potential for stopped vehicles ahead.

Also, signals at the intersection were recently reviewed and further optimized to reflect southbound and westbound left turn movements during the morning peak period.

However, staff note these steps aren’t considered “sustainable solutions” to traffic concerns “as they do not address the capacity constraint on the south leg of the intersection which represents the critical “bottleneck” at this location.”

Pidwerbecki told The Oshawa Express a contributing factor to the problem is motorists heading east are using Harmony Road to access Highway 401 instead of the tolled 407/412 combination.

“People are refusing to use the 407, that’s why Harmony Road has had this incredible uptake in the number of vehicles.”

As reported previously by The Oshawa Express,  according to numbers from the region, traffic on Harmony Road has increased by 2,000 vehicles daily, mostly due to Highway 407 and land use growth.

To Pidwerbecki, removing tolls from Highway 412 would increase the number of people using it.

Highway 412 is the only tolled access road to Highway 407 in all the GTA, as will be the future Highway 418 in Bowmanville.