MP confident Trans-Canada Highway will finally be twinned west of Kenora, Ont.
Two-lane roadway site of many crashes, closures over the years
There's renewed hope the Trans-Canada Highway will finally be twinned from the Manitoba-Ontario border to Kenora, Ont.
Nearly a decade after the project was announced, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation hosted a public meeting last month about turning the dangerous, two-lane stretch of Highway 17 into a divided, four-lane road.
The route has seen many crashes and closures over the years.
MP Bob Nault (Liberal-Kenora) is confident a green light for the project is imminent.
"I really do believe we're within striking range of getting this going this summer or in the fall," he said.
Nault says it's up to the Ontario government to apply for funding, but he expects an application will be made shortly, likely through the federal transportation fund.
Governments on board
"I'm very confident now because all the governments — starting with the First Nation governments, the provincial government who has jurisdiction for this, and the federal government through myself as the local MP — very much see this as a top priority for the region."
The new Ontario government led by Premier Doug Ford decided to study the project this year, after it was grounded almost 10 years ago.
An environmental assessment is underway for the westernmost section of the 40-kilometre roadway, which represents the only west-east corridor between the provinces.
WSP Canada Group Ltd., the firm enlisted to study the project, is currently seeking input from the public through their website.
Area chiefs signed an agreement in October to voice their shared concerns and interests on the project.
Nault says Highway 17 can be dangerous with fast-moving traffic and a steady volume of semi-trailers, so addressing safety is a top concern.
"We've had a lot of accidents and a lot of shutdowns of this road over the years," Nault said. "It's our only major highway connecting east and west, connecting us to health care in Manitoba if we need it."
During his election campaign, Ford described driving down the road as terrifying when it's pitch dark outside and a transport truck is approaching from the opposite direction.
Nault believes twinning the highway will lead to economic benefits, encouraging tourists to take the road and boosting the flow of commerce. It's expected the speed limit would be boosted to 100 km/h from 90 km/h.
"We want to do more business. We want more people moving to the Kenora area for tourism," he said. "We think that this is the natural next step."
Nault also expects more cottage development east of Kenora because it would be quicker and easier to get there, and he anticipates Manitoba would profit from more motorists travelling to the province.
"When you start reducing the time, it makes a difference on the interest of people of being here," he said.
The current plan is to start twinning a 6.5-kilometre stretch of Highway 17, between the provincial border and Highway 673, next year, before eventually reaching the turnoff to Kenora.