Province plans to widen five-kilometre stretch of Highway 417
The Ontario government is planning to widen a five-kilometre section of the Queensway to four lanes in each direction.
Widening the stretch of Highway 417 from Maitland Avenue is part of a long-developed plan that originated before the city of Ottawa decided to run its LRT alongside the highway.
Transportation minister Caroline Mulroney made the announcement Thursday, although she did not commit to a timeline or cost estimate for the project.
“We’re working to implement it as quickly as possible, and I know there will be some news on that in the weeks to come,” she said at an announcement in Plantagenet, Ont.
The announcement Thursday is part of a new draft transportation plan for eastern Ontario. Other new projects include widening Highway 401 to eight lanes in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, as well as the addition of new truck stops along the 401.
"Gridlock continues to back up the highways and major gaps exist in the inner community bus sector, making it harder for people to get to their jobs, medical appointments and to visit their loved ones," Mulroney said of widening Hwy. 417.
The plan to widen Highway 417 all the way to the 416 originates from planning done before the city decided to build its LRT system. Stage 2 of the project, which is under construction, will run along part of the stretch of Highway 417 slated to be widened.
The previous Liberal government announced in 2016 it would widen the highway in two stretches. At the time, the provincial and federal governments each pledged $47.5 million for construction.
Work began shortly afterwards on the first stretch between Carling and Maitland avenues. But the new government had not committed to widening the second stretch until Thursday.
The government says the highway expansions will reduce gridlock and spur economic growth.
However, critics of the previous Highway 417 widening between Maitland and Carling avenues said it would undermine the LRT and lead to more cars downtown.
Two west end councillors suggest Ottawa now has other priorities.
"Circumstances have changed," Coun. Jeff Leiper said. "We have now a light rail system that parallels a lot of this route and is a better option for moving people around the city."
Leiper says widening the Hwy. 417 lanes could cost "hundreds of millions of dollars." That's money that could be better spent on improving transit to the suburbs, he said.
Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said the Ontario government's announcement is "very tone deaf" to what's happening in the city.
"We have a climate change emergency. We are trying to discourage the use of cars. We have more people than ever working from home," Kavanagh said.
Government officials say construction on widening Hwy. 417 could start as early as 2025.
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Natalie van Rooy