Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford pledges Highway 7 expansion (again)
After previous announcements, chamber president says 'we want to see action' on project
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says his party plans to move forward with construction of a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph.
"[It's] a highway that is desperately needed, a highway that will reduce gridlock to get drivers out of their cars and home faster to spend more time with their families," Ford said during a campaign stop in Kitchener Thursday morning.
The PCs say they're ready to start phase two of construction of a 18-kilometre, four-lane highway with two bridges over the Grand River that would connect Highway 7 to Highway 85.
Ford did not elaborate on the cost or expected completion date. He said his government would provide further details after putting out a "fair and transparent bid" for the project.
The promise of a new highway between Kitchener and Guelph has a long history in this region, Ian McLean, president and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, said after Ford's announcement.
"I kid you not, I've seen minutes of my chamber's board meetings dating back 47 years ago, talking about the importance of improved access between Guelph and Kitchener," McLean told CBC News.
The project, has been on-again, off-again for decades. In 2016, the former Liberal government purchased properties to make way for the proposed expansion. The Victoria Street bridge over the expressway in Kitchener was rebuilt to accommodate the new highway in 2018.
The project was placed under review when the Progressive Conservatives took power following the 2018 provincial election.
In 2020, then-Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris, who is running for re-election, announced "a clear commitment" by the province to move forward with the highway.
The project was also mentioned in the 2022 Ontario budget, though a price tag wasn't attached.
Whoever forms the next government, McLean said he hopes they move forward with the project as quickly as possible.
"We've had a lot of announcements around this," he said. "We want to see action."