THUNDER BAY – Business owners that have built success off passing truck traffic are worried weight restrictions on a route into the city could force them to shut down.
On Monday night, Thunder Bay city council will be discussing a new by-law to designate truck routes into the city. The new by-law will replace an existing by-law, which prohibits heavy traffic on certain roads in the city.
This new by-law would restrict heavy traffic on Arthur Street, west of Highway 61, which is where Santorelli’s Truck Stop has been located for the past 45 years.
Owners and operators with the truck stop are worried that if the new by-law is put into place, businesses along that stretch road that rely on transport truck traffic will lose their primary source of business.
“To put it into perspective, when the Harbor Extension was opened, Santorelli’s lost about 30 per cent of their business,” said Lorne Kellar, comptroller with Santorelli’s Truck Stop. “I can only imagine what’s going to happen if the rest of our business is driven away from our door. In this day and age, it’s all about drive-by business.”
Santorelli’s Truck Stop employs 35 people, with other businesses in the area totaling more than 700 employees. Kellar said when businesses suffer, there is a trickle down affect, which would reach the city of Thunder Bay.
“A lot of those salary dollars are being spent in the city of Thunder Bay,” he said.
Kellar believes the heart of the issue comes down to the cost of road repairs. However, he argues Arthur Street was designed to handle heavy traffic.
“The biggest concern is the cost of repairs on Arthur Street,” he said. “I realize the cost of repairs is probably a great concern. But everyone needs to realize that Arthur Street was designed and built as part of the Trans-Canada Highway, so it was designed and built to hold truck traffic.”
This is not the first time the issue has been discussed around the city council chambers, with weight restrictions on Arthur Street brought forward three other times, most recently last year. But Kellar said during this latest round, Santorelli’s was left out of the discussion.
“The last time it came up, we left the council meeting with the understanding that there would be an opportunity for us to have some dialogue with administration to come up with a solution,” he said. “There was no contact with Santorelli’s whatsoever.”
Oliver-Paipoonge mayor, Lucy Kloosterhuis, said most of the businesses in the area rely on trucking or heavy equipment because that is where the traffic is and always has been.
“It’s disconcerting to see that this might have a stop put to it,” she said. “Not only does it affect the businesses in our municipality, but it affects a lot of city residents who work out here, and city businesses who supply these businesses with parts. They are all going to be affected if these businesses close their doors because of lack of traffic.”
Kloosterhuis added that she, too, would like to work with city council to come to a mutual agreement so businesses in the area can remain open.
One possible option Kloosterhuis and Kellar said could be applied is a reduced speed limit on Arthur Street, which will keep traffic in the area, and Kellar hopes, trucks continuing to pull into Santorelli’s Truck Stop.
“If you impact people’s ability to come to our business, they are not going to come,” Kellar said. “It’s just that simple.”