The Ontario government is going to stop studying the four-laning of Highway 17 for at least the next five years.

That means actual construction of a new and safer highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Mattawa has been pushed into the distant future.

Putting the study off is not good news for Markstay-Warren Mayor Sonja Flynn, who said almost everyone in her town knows someone who died on Highway 17.

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Due to a lack of financial resources, the province will not proceed with four-laning Highway 17. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The highway has been studied enough already, she said, adding that she wants the province to just pick a route and then build it.

"I would like to see them set timeframes for completion rather than just putting it on the shelf, with the excuse that there's no money."

The province said it doesn't even have the money to study where the highway should go, since studying just a 40-kilometre stretch can cost as much as $3 million.

'Only so many resources'

Gordan Rennie from the Ministry of Transportation said once the five ongoing Highway 17 studies wrap up, those dollars will instead be spent on new pavement and bridges.

"There are only so many resources and we are in a period of constraint," Rennie said.

"So we're using the staff we have and maximizing what we're able to deliver."

Even when these route planning studies are done, construction follows 20 or 30 years later, he noted.

That means it could be a few generations before northerners drive on a four-lane Highway 17.

"There's a lot of highways in northeastern Ontario … a lot of pavement, a lot of bridges, a lot of culverts ... to keep the system up to the good standard that the public expects," Rennie said.

Sault Ste. Marie Liberal MPP David Orazietti campaigned last year for Highway 17 to be four-laned through northern Ontario. He did not return phone calls for this story.