Controversial 174 widening from Orléans to Rockland resurfaces

The Ontario budget promises the widening of a road to Rockland will start by 2019, but an Ottawa city councillor says the middle section within city limits should be widened first.

Ontario budget promises to widen portion of road outside city limits starting in 2019

Plans to widen regional road 174 to four lanes between Orleans and Rockland have been discussed for years.

An Ontario budget promise to widen a country road to Rockland has the councillor for Ottawa's Cumberland ward arguing the middle, rural section within the city limits should be four-laned first.

Turning the stretch of road that winds along the Ottawa River between Trim Road in Orléans and neighbouring Clarence-Rockland into a four-lane divided highway has been attracting controversy for years.

The widening plan is meant to improve the commute but those who live along County Road 17, also known as Highway 174, are concerned their private property will be taken for the extra lanes. 

Coun. Stephen Blais said the drive now is dangerous, and that widening the road has been a priority for him.

He was pleased when he noticed the Ontario budget released Feb. 25 included a promise to invest in the nine kilometres of County Road 17 in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, starting in 2019.

But he said the only plan that makes sense is to continue the divided highway starting in Orléans, and work east.

"I think it would be very bad for the province or the counties to widen that section of (County Road 17) before the middle section is taken care of," he said.

City committee approves functional design

The City of Ottawa has not put aside the $47 million it estimates is needed for an interchange at Trim Road, nor the $141 million to four-lane Highway 174 to the city limits.

City plans put the project far off in 2031.

But the city is moving ahead on an environmental assessment. On Wednesday, the transportation committee approved a functional design to be put out for public review, if full council approves it, too.

A functional design for the widening of highway 174 creates a lookout over the Ottawa River just east of Trim Road (City of Ottawa)

The report says 12 hectares of property are needed for the widening, and shows aerial photos of where the four lanes would go.

It also proposes a recreational path from Petrie Island to a lookout on the Ottawa River beside the road, as well as a walkway near the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum to the river.

Blais pointed out the bus, bike and commuter lanes that could make it a candidate for infrastructure funding.

"It meets all the criteria very, very well, now we need some political will in Toronto and on Parliament Hill to provide the dollars necessary to do it," he said.

'It would destroy the village of Cumberland'

The latest city staff report came as news to Barry Turner, who lives on Highway 174. He's watched the file closely for years, and last heard it raised by the city at what he described as a heated community meeting almost a year ago.

Barry Turner, a member of the Cumberland Village Community Association, says widening Highway 174 to four lanes could harm the Ottawa River and destroy the village, because people's properties will be taken over to put a big road straight through. (Kate Porter/CBC)

"I think the design is fatally flawed," said Turner. "I do not think you should have a four-lane highway beside a river."

He's convinced such a big road would destroy the rural village.

And, he's not appeased by Blais's description of bike lanes and pretty streetscaping.

"In order to make the so-called 'complete streets,' you actually have to take more property away from people," Turner said.

'Not holding my breath'

Meanwhile, the community that shares the road isn't convinced an Ontario budget promise means money will flow for the project.

Stéphane Parisien, chief administrative officer for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, said no dollar figure was mentioned.

He agreed four-laning the road in Clarence-Rockland ahead of the Ottawa portion would only create a bottleneck for commuters.

And, the 2019 start date would come after another provincial election, Parisien noted.

"I'm not holding my breath," he said.