Who should use this 100-year-old Scarborough road? Not trucks, says resident

The future of Twyn Rivers Drive in Scarborough is up in the air, with the local councillor and residents at odds over what should happen.

Twyn Rivers Drive is a small, narrow road that cuts through the Rouge River

Wendy Jo Hanninen wants Parks Canada to install more signs along Twyn Rivers Drive, indicating that the road isn't safe for trucks. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

The road is more than 100 years old, and its main source of traffic used to be horses heading to the local mill in the Rouge Valley — but today, the future of Twyn Rivers Drive is up in the air, with the local councillor and residents at odds over what should happen.

Twyn Rivers is a scenic drive through the Rouge Valley, used by hikers, motorists — and transport trucks.

And it's those trucks that are a problem for Wendy Jo Hanninen, who has witnessed several tractor-trailers get stuck on more than one occasion. She's even taken it upon herself to film and photograph the incidents.

There are weight restrictions on the road, but they're not clear, said Hanninen, who uses the road daily to get to work.

Cars are often seen speeding along Twyn Rivers Drive, despite the posted speed limits. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

"There are two bridges, one concrete and one a single-lane metal bridge," she explained. The weight limit is three tonnes — much less than the average transport truck, putting some drivers in difficult situations. 

On Tuesday morning, Hanninen witnessed another truck get stuck. She captured the Fairgreen Sod Farms transport truck stopped at the side of the road.

Truck stuck due to 'driver error'

When CBC Toronto contacted the company, it said the truck ended up there due to driver error, adding that the GPS told the driver to take that route. The company's owner, Cam Fairty, specifically does not allow drivers to take Twyn Rivers because it can't accommodate 18-wheelers. Eventually, another truck was sent to help pull out the trapped truck, along with a mechanic.

Wendy Jo Hanninen saw a Fairgreen Sod Farms truck stuck on Tuesday morning. The company said it explicitly tells drivers not to use the road, and that the incident was due to driver error. (Wendy Jo Hanninen)

"There's no way they'd be able to make that turn," said Hanninen. "They would have to unload the truck, couldn't take it back over the bridge and may have to reverse it out."

But part of the problem may lie in the fact that drivers aren't told of the no-truck rule until they're already on the road.

"It's not until you get down into the valley do you get a sign saying no trucks are allowed, so it's too late," said Hanninen.

Hanninen has documented several trucks being stuck on Twyn Rivers Drive. (Wendy Jo Hanninen)

She thinks sometimes drivers are following their GPS, but navigation systems don't always acknowledge nuances and restrictions on roads.

Hanninen wants there to be better signage before drivers enter the road. She'd also like to see more enforcement by police.

Road should be closed to traffic

Meanwhile, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker wants to see the road closed to thoroughfare motorists completely, and only used for local traffic to the park.

There is no designated pedestrian route into the park, meaning motorists and pedestrians share the winding road. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

In 2016, he moved a motion at city hall asking staff to address what he saw as safety issues, which included steep curves, sharp turns and blind hills. In the request, he asked if there are legal liabilities for the city in keeping a road open that does not meet modern acceptable standards.

"It's just a matter of time before there's a tragic accident or someone gets killed on this road," said De Baeremaeker. "This is like the Indy 500 during rush hour — there's nothing but a long, snaking, winding line of cars that come through here, thousands at a time and they're all speeding because everyone wants to get to work fast."

The Scarborough Centre councillor hopes the staff report will come back in the fall, and that changes can be implemented immediately. The ultimate goal is for people to stop using Twyn Rivers as a shortcut to get to work. 

Few alternate routes, says resident

But that's something Hanninen isn't on board with, citing the few alternate routes to get from east to west in the area.

Glenn De Baeremaeker, councillor for Scarborough Centre, has requested a staff report to look at the safety of Twyn Rivers Drive. He would like to see it closed to through traffic. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

"Getting from Pickering to the Scarborough side, there's not a lot of options ... the 401, Kingston Road or Twyn Rivers," she explained. "If there's an accident, it can mean a lot of delays. People do use this road for commuting."

"I love driving through here every morning, it's kind of like my little taste of nature before I get to work," she said.

The road is also used by pedestrians and cyclists, even though there is no dedicated path for them, which Hanninen would also like to see changed. 

Cherin and Chandy Anderson, and their mother Andrea Jacobs (left to right) use Twyn Rivers Drive reguarly to walk up and down the hills. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

"People would get to the park a lot more if they could walk to it," she said.

Staff report expected in fall

Andrea Jacobs was walking alongisde the road with her two daughters Cherin and Chandy on Wednesday afternoon, an activity they do regularly.

She echoed the issues De Baeremaeker and Hanninen have witnessed with vehicle traffic.

"Cars speed too fast and too much. It's narrow and it's one-way, sort of — this is like in the Caribbean, like country roads in the city," she said. 

Twyn Rivers Drive is a 100-year-old road that cuts through the Rouge Valley, which was originally used for people and horses to get to the mill and local cottages. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Chandy said she likes walking in the park to "go up and down the hills" for exercise, but Cherin said she's seen cars "going on the line where people walk" more than once. 

Once the staff report is out, the issue will be in the hands of Scarborough Community Council, since Twyn Rivers is considered a country road, which means its jurisdiction lies with the local municipality. 

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