The Highway 34 and County Road 17 interchange and the County Road 17 bridge over the CN railway tracks on the southern edge of Hawkesbury were supposed to be rebuilt this year, but that is not likely to happen. Municipal and United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) officials are awaiting further discussions with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO).

The MTO still has ownership of the section of 17 at the interchange and railway crossing, even though the rest of the highway was transferred to the UCPR in 1998.

In March, Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel and Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly expressed their opposition to plans by the MTO to have the new on-ramps for Highway 17 meet the highway at “T” intersections controlled by stop signs and to eliminate merging lanes for traffic entering the highway.  The additional lanes that create a four-lane road on Highway 34 at the interchange would also be eliminated.

In May, the Town of Hawkesbury filed an objection under the Environmental Assessment process which effectively paused the reconstruction project for 2019.  The town’s objection alleged that the MTO rejected a separate peer-reviewed study on proposals for the interchange that was commissioned by the UCPR in 2017.

According to MTO Eastern Region Communications Coordinator Brandy Duhaime, MTO’s design plan for the interchange had not been modified and said that the Transportation Environmental Study Report on the project would be available for a 30-day public review period by the end of January 2020.

UCPR Director of Public Works Marc Clermont said he has met with the MTO and tried to explain the results of the counties peer review and is expecting a response before the end of the year.

Clermont said there is still a further opportunity to object to the plan, but the MTO is not indicating it is open to making changes.

“They seem to be sticking to their guns,” he said.

Clermont noted that UCPR council has objected to the plan, particularly the part involving on-ramps controlled by stop signs.

“They’re stalling on us,” said Riopel, about the slow process in getting answers from the MTO.

He wants a meeting with Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney to discuss the issue.

“We’re still trying,” Riopel said.