Highway 17 widening ignites hope in Renfrew

Widening 22.5 kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway will make commuting safer and development more attractive west of Ottawa, says the town's mayor.

Work to make highway 4 lanes from Arnprior to Renfrew could start in next 2 to 3 years

A police cruiser blocks a stretch of Highway 17 west of Arnprior, Ont., following a fatal crash in 2016. The province announced plans Thursday to widen the remaining two-lane stretch of the highway between Arnprior and Renfrew, Ont. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

The province has announced plans to convert the remaining two-lane stretch of Highway 17 between Renfrew, Ont., and Arnprior, Ont., to four lanes.

The 22.5-kilometre stretch to be widened runs from Scheel Drive in the Township of McNab/Braeside to three kilometres west of Bruce Street in Renfrew, according to a news release from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski on Thursday.

The project will also include the construction of four new interchanges. 

"The economic opportunities, the development, the growth, and the tremendous enhancement to highway safety is something that we consider a top priority," said Yakabuski in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.

Campaign promise

Widening Highway 17 in eastern Ontario was a promise that Premier Doug Ford made in the run-up to the 2018 provincial election.

Once completed, the entire highway between Arnprior and Renfrew would be four lanes. For drivers heading west from Ottawa, the twinned portion currently ends at Scheel Drive.

Highway 17 between Arnprior and Renfrew has been the scene of a number of serious collisions, including a fatal six-vehicle crash at Calabogie Road in 2016.

The first phase of the project, which would include building a new interchange at Calabogie Road, could get underway "within the next two or three years," according to Barbara Mottram, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

Improvement for safety, development

Renfrew Mayor Don Eady said the announcement was a pleasant surprise given the long-standing calls to widen the highway.

He said the two-lane highway is often used by people with medical appointments in Ottawa because the municipality is linked into the city's hospital system.

"If you're going to Ottawa in the middle of winter, it's a much safer drive in four lanes than two. It's been a safety concern for many years up in this area," Eady said.

He said he expects it to increase house prices since the housing market in Arnprior has been stronger due to highway access. Eady said it will be about 10 years before the widening reaches all the way to Renfrew.

"Over that 10 years, we'll see a lot more development in Renfrew getting in on the ground floor for the future," he said.

No cost estimate

Three other interchanges would be installed on the highway at Gillan/Lochwinnoch Road, O'Brien Road, and Bruce Street/Castleford Road, Mottram wrote in an email.

The project will also will require the government to purchase the necessary property and carry out an environmental assessment, among other steps, she said.

The province is not releasing an estimated cost for the highway widening until after the contract is awarded.

With files from Matthew Kupfer


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.