Two Prescott and Russell mayors want the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) and an engineering firm to reconsider plans for reconstructing the County Road 17 and Highway 34 interchange.

Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly and Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel oppose plans to have the ramp to 17 westbound and the exit to 34 from 17 eastbound meet Highway 17 at right-angle T-intersections.

They expressed their disagreement at the March 13 UCPR committee of the whole meeting to Douglas Raby and Tim Dickinson of Jacobs, the engineering and consulting firm working for the MTO on the project.

By having stop signs to access County Road 17, Riopel argued the same safety problems that used to regularly affect the ramps from Highway 417 where they meet Highway 34 near Herb’s Travel Plaza and Splendron Farms would develop at the Hawkesbury interchange.

Riopel also disagrees with plans to reduce the length of the acceleration/deceleration lanes near the ramps on 17.

“I’d like to know if you did a traffic count on Highway 17?” asked Assaly.

Around 300 vehicles travel in the area in each direction, during the morning hours, according to Raby.

UCPR Director of Public Works Marc Clermont did not give specific traffic numbers from his traffic studies but acknowledged they are higher.  However, he noted the key difference in the numbers is whether they are based on hourly counts or daily ones.

Assaly said the T-intersections where the ramps meet 17 will cause turning difficulties for large trucks.

In February, Jacobs and the MTO presented their plans to Hawkesbury council where concern was also expressed about the ramps and intersections.  Assaly said Town of Hawkesbury staff also had discussions about the issue.

The mayor questioned why the MTO was still presenting the same intersection and ramp plan.

“Today I see you are coming here again and presenting your T-intersection,” said Assaly.

She asked if the MTO has an open mind to change the plans.

“If you are not open to that, I’m going to Kingston,” (MTO regional office) Assaly said.

Raby said openness depends on the nature of what changes are being requested.

“Hawkesbury is not ready to accept the T-interchange; this is not safe,” replied Assaly.

“The ramps we have now are good,” she added.

Raby said the current traffic volumes are appropriate for what is being recommended.

“I live in this community, I use this bridge twice a day,” Assaly said.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it; we need to talk some more,“ she added.

The Hawkesbury mayor also noted that traffic is likely to increase in the area because of future development in Hawkesbury and Champlain.

Riopel said the ramps are already there and money could be saved by leaving them as they are.

The project design is in the refinement stage, an environmental mitigation plan is being developed, and then an environmental assessment report will be published for a 30-day public review.

Depending on the outcome of the planning process and financing, the work is scheduled to be done during the summer ahead.

Warden Robert Kirby said he would appreciate it if the MTO would meet with Champlain and Hawkesbury once they have more information and options for discussion.