$265M in repairs, upgrades announced for James Bay Highway
'Essentially, it's northern development that goes through that [highway]," says Luc Blanchette
Quebec and Ottawa are investing $265 million to rebuild a good portion of the James Bay Highway — a vital link connecting the coastal Cree communities of James Bay with the south.
The announcement was made Monday afternoon by Cree Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come; federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau; member of the national assembly for the region Luc Blanchette; and Jean Boucher, member of parliament for Ungava.
The joint project covers the 620 kilometres of the James Bay Highway from Matagami to Radisson. It will see more than half of the road surface repaired — including the replacement of culverts, guardrails and signage — something Coon Come referred to on social media as "long awaited" by the people who use the route regularly. The federal minister of transport, Garneau, said the route is "an extremely" important bit of infrastructure.
"It is very clear that for northern development and for reliable access to the North, it is important to invest in infrastructure," said Garneau.
The Government of Canada is contributing more than $108 million, with the provincial government throwing in more than $156 million.
"Be it tourists, commercial transporters as well as our Cree and Jamesien citizens travelling with their families, these improvements will allow our people to travel on a safer, more secure road," said Coon Come. "Not to mention the savings on unplanned tire and suspension repairs that put a dent in our budgets."
Coon Come also acknowledged the improvements will lead to increased economic opportunities and tourism development.
'It's northern development'
The poor condition of the James Bay Highway is a constant topic of discussion on social media within the territory, with motorists regularly posting photos and videos of particularly bad sections.
In May, one traveller noted every pothole more than "9 inches [small] in diameter" from kilometre 238 south to Matagami. There were more than 50 on the list.
"It reflects our commitment to maintaining the quality of our transportation infrastructure across our vast territory," said Blanchette, MNA for Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue. "This project will also facilitate the flow of people and goods. User safety on this key link to James Bay is our top concern."
Blanchette also said the Quebec government is providing funding for repairs to the 90 kilometres of the access road to the community of Chisasibi.
'It's really a very important project. Essentially, it's northern development that goes through that [highway]," said Blanchette. "We know that GoldCorp has made major investments with a large concentrator and there will be deposits in the vicinity. That's in their business plan. We had to support this kind of development there."
For Jean Boucher, MNA for Ungava, the improvements to the James Bay Highway will reinvigorate northern Quebec.
"By moving quickly on critical stretches, we will be increasing safety not only for the 11,000 people served by the James Bay Road, but also for the numerous hydroelectric, mining, forestry and tourism sector users in our region."
With files from Christopher Herodier and Tanya Neveu