Hwy 540 entrance to Cup and Saucer trail deemed safe for traffic despite citizen concerns

Study recommends expanded parking

NORTHEAST TOWN—A report on the new Highway 540 Cup and Saucer Trail entrance, commissioned by the Northeast Town and prepared by Tranplan Associates, has been completed and approved by council.

While the traffic brief found that there were no issues with the new entrance, it did recommend that the 32 capacity parking lot be expanded to allow for 50 vehicles, including spaces for RVs/trailers. The news of the need to expand the parking lot will come to no surprise to Manitoulin residents who drove past the Highway 540 trail entrance this summer.

A video posted on Facebook in July by an Islander showing cars, trucks and RVs lining both sides of the highway by the trail entrance for what seems like endless kilometers garnered a lot of attention and comments, with many noting the danger the traffic posed and the need for an expanded parking lot.

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“Based on the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) data, the site visit and traffic count was scheduled for a Sunday, mid-day,” states the report. “The peak hour for Highway 540 and the site was recorded between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm (21 vehicles entered and five exited) while 100 vehicles passed westbound and 200 vehicles passed eastbound along Highway 540. These volumes fall well below warranting a left turn storage lane or a right turn taper on Highway 540.”

“The existing temporary parking lot has an approximate capacity of 32 vehicles,” the report continues. “On the Sunday of the survey, the lot appeared to be at capacity between 2 pm and 2:30 pm. It is recommended that the permanent parking lot have capacity for at least 50 vehicles including spaces for at least 3-5 larger RVs/trailers.”

The study also found that, “based on the low level of traffic on Highway 540, the modest volumes the Cup and Saucer parking lot is expected to generate and the available sightlines, it is our opinion that the temporary site is not creating any traffic problems and that making this into a permanent entrance does not require a full traffic impact study.”

In the spring of this year the Northeast Town, in partnership with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC), received a temporary permit for the new entrance off of Highway 540, conditional on the results of a traffic study.

Town CAO Dave Williamson reviewed the traffic brief with council at last week’s meeting.

Mr. Williamson suggested that the town, with the EBC, expands the parking lots to accommodate 70 cars. He added that the municipality is currently seeking funding from FedNor and that the EBC has been seeking donations.

“I understand that lots of people are using it now, but there has been a lot of attention around it,” said Councillor Laurie Cook. “In the future do you think that a 70 car parking lot will be needed?”

“It would be too bad if we expanded it to a 50 car parking lot and then we still had to make it bigger down the road,” said Councillor Bill Koehler. “I would rather see it too big than cars flowing over onto the highway.”

“This is the Island’s prime attraction,” added Councillor Dawn Orr. “We need to expand the parking lot to accommodate the busy time.”

Councillor Cook asked if town staff could look into a parking ticket machine to help recoup the expense of expanding the parking lot.

Councillor Koehler suggested that the topic be brought up at the next Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) meeting as the Cup and Saucer benefits other municipalities on Manitoulin.

The Northeast Town council carried a motion to approve the report and that it be forwarded to the MTO. They also carried a motion to work with the EBC to expand the parking lot.