CORNWALL – The provincial government’s transportation master plan for Eastern Ontario omitted any details for one of the busiest commuter highways in the region, and that drew the ire of councillors at SDG Counties last week.
The plan, which provides a framework for future improvements to the province’s road network, was released just before the election writs were issued. Included in the plan is an outline for expanding Highway 401 through SDG Counties to the Quebec boundary to six lanes; and improvements to Highway 417.
Absent from the report was details for improving Highway 138 between Cornwall and the 417. That highway has seen a number of fatal accidents in the past 20 years, most recently on April 28. Council discussed the provincial transportation plan during its May 16 meeting.
“There is no mention at all in that action plan of that of the Highway 138 corridor,” Counties Transportation Director Ben de Haan told council.
“It boggles my mind frankly why it wasn’t given there is a completed Environmental Assessment, and the province has started implementing recommendations from that EA.”
Park-n-Ride areas have been constructed already and de Haan explained that engineering is underway for the future roundabout at Highway 138 and Headline Road.
de Haan explained that that there was a long-term plan to construct passing lanes on the highway.
“If that was the only thing mentioned in [the report] I would have taken that as a good sign that it’s on the radar. But the fact that nothing was identified tells me it was a complete oversight or I don’t know.”
He recommended taking a strong position that the 138 corridor needed to be added to the provincial plan along with looking at future issues with County Road 31 as a commuter route to Ottawa in the future. de Haan said the traffic north of Winchester averages over 10,000 cars per day.
“Thirty-one is one of three ways to get into the capital of the country and it’s an abysmal road compared to any other capital city of a province and that should always be on the list,” said Councillor Allan Armstrong (North Dundas). “People that are going to leave a road like 138 [out] I don’t think will ever put their attentions to 31.”
Councillor Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) agreed saying the province purposely broke down the plan by regions of the province. “The fact that this is in the Eastern Ontario plan and the two highways that SDG use to get to the nation’s capital were left out is completely ridiculous,” she said.
“We need this looked at,” said Councillor David Smith (South Stormont). “Frankly I don’t think they have the answers to fix this. I don’t know how many people have to die for someone to make a decision on this. It’s really frustrating.”
After a lengthy discussion, council directed Warden Carma Williams to write a letter to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to express council’s concerns, and request a face-to-face meeting with the Minister following the June 2 provincial election.