'It's going to be a huge factor in saving lives': Highway 3 widening announced

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announced Monday that widening a dangerous stretch of Highway 3 will finally move forward.

'It's of huge importance to us' says Lakeshore mayor Tom Bain

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and MPP Rick Nicholls announced the widening of Highway 3 Monday. (Ken Lund)

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announced Monday that widening a dangerous stretch of Highway 3 will finally move forward.

"From day one, this has been a priority," said Mulroney at the announcement.

The stretch of highway spans from the Town of Essex to just west of Leamington.

"We are committed to widening the entire highway," said Mulroney. "The process will happen in segments, but we are promising to complete it."

According to Mulroney, the funding is contingent on the bidding process. The minister said a budget will not be released, so that the bids are competitive. 

A six-kilometre stretch of Highway 3 from Essex Road 34 to Highway 77 in Leamington will also be repaved under a separate contract to address ongoing buckling issues. 

Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain told CBC's Windsor Morning the widening will make the highway more safe.

Bain said one of the key concerns is that the highway is four lanes in one area and then drops to two lanes.

"It's accidents waiting to happen," Bain said about the two-lane stretch. "This will mean a lot more safety to the whole thing. It's going to be a huge factor in saving lives."

Mulroney said there will be a public information session available soon for the community. The work is expected to begin in 2021. 

NDP Essex MPP Taras Natyshak said his party will be watching this project closely. 

"The Ford government has yet to invest a single dollar in the funding of widening Highway 3. Doug Ford didn't bother to include this project in his 2019 budget, and he didn't announce a single dollar of funding today," said Natyshak in a statement. 

Natyshak added that "2021 is too long for our community to wait for shovels to hit the ground."

"This plan shortchanges the needs of Chatham-Kent-Leamington and does nothing to address the immediate safety concerns of citizens."

Twenty years of collision data previously analyzed by CBC News showed one collision along Highway 3 nearly every 11 days from 1993 to 2012 — amounting to 646 collisions, including seven fatalities.

This May 2019 crash is another example of dangerous collisions on Highway 3. (Ontario Provincial Police)

In 2006, the expansion project was originally approved by the provincial government, with a completion date of 2014. Instead, it wound up in a 'future planning' document for southern Ontario highways and was voted down by the provincial legislature in 2015.

In 2016, then-transportation minister Steven Del Duca toured the stretch of highway and said he "got it," promising to have internal discussions and come up with a plan. 

The expansion was once again left out of highway improvement projects in 2016.

This year, Ontario set aside nearly $3 billion for provincial highways, but Highway 3 didn't make the list. In April, Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent, promised an announcement about the twinning would come soon. 

In April 2017, a motorcyclist died after hitting a wild turkey, and then colliding with a transport truck on Highway 3, east of Oldcastle, Ont. (OPP)

At the time, the Ministry of Transportation told CBC News they were taking steps to 'expedite' the process, including obtaining the property necessary for expansion. 

The most recent fatality on the roadway was in June 2019, when a motorcyclist was killed between County Roads 27 and 29. 

Nicholls, Ontario Provincial Police, as well as the mayors of Leamington, Windsor, Lakeshore and Essex were all present at the Monday announcement.


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