Thunder Bay expressway plans unveiled at MTO meeting

Thunder Bay residents had a first look at the province's latest long-term plans for the Thunder Bay expressway at an open house Tuesday night.

Ministry study proposes medians, interchanges along a 13 km stretch of the highway

The Ministry of Transportation is proposing a median to divide the Thunder Bay expressway, as well as replacing intersections between Arthur and Balsam with interchanges or overpasses. (Gary Rinne/CBC)

Thunder Bay residents had a first look at the province's latest long-term plans for the Thunder Bay expressway at an open house Tuesday night.

The Ministry of Transportation proposes dividing the highway with a median and replacing several intersections with interchanges or overpasses.

Meeting participant John Charles said he likes the idea of a divided highway, since he knows someone who was killed on the road.
Thunder Bay resident John Charles says he likes the idea of a divided highway. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

“A median in between or more space would have probably saved his life,” he said.

There's also one intersection in particular Charles said he wants to see upgraded. He said the MTO should “make the intersection of Red River Rd. and the expressway their priority. It is the major intersection of the highway across Canada for all traffic."

Charles said the intersection is "a nightmare of traffic on a daily basis."

Construction complaints

The possibility of more work on the 13 kilometre stretch of the expressway — roughly between Arthur Street and Balsam Street — was not what Thunder Bay resident Ron Watson wanted to hear.

Watson, who lives beside the busy roadway, said he's inconvenienced whenever construction is done.
Ron Watson lives near the proposed construction for the Thunder Bay expressway. He says the construction persists around the clock. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

“They were working 24-hours-a-day for months,” he said. “You couldn't sleep in one side of my house because they had the big lights on so it looked like daylight all the time.”

But ministry spokesperson Rick Inman said any actual work is still a long way off.

“There's no timeline for construction, and there's no provincial funding commitment for any improvements,” he said.

'Plan for the future'

The ministry wants a plan in place so land can be protected, should funding become available, Inman added.

“We need to plan for the future, so we need to ensure the Thunder Bay Expressway can meet the demands of the future,” he said.
The MTO's Rick Inman says any actual work on the Thunder Bay expressway is still a long way off. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

“To do that, we need to have a plan in place and we need to protect the property for that plan."

Thunder Bay resident Karen Fingler said she thinks the upgrades are necessary.

"I think we're getting a lot of bottlenecks," she said.

"People are getting sort of stuck at red lights and we just need some better flow."
    
The open house was part of the Environmental Assessment process that is ongoing.

Another open house is scheduled for early 2015.

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