The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) is in the final stages of preparing for the reconstruction of the Highway 34 and County Road 17 interchange, and the adjacent bridge over Hawkesbury Creek and the CN railway tracks on County Road 17, which is also under MTO jurisdiction.
The Transportation Environmental Study Report is available for public review and comment at https://cr17bridges.com for 30 days beginning on November 4. The public still has the opportunity to request further detailed studies through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks.
Since the MTO first announced the project in the winter of 2019, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly and Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel have been especially critical of a plan to eliminate the additional lanes on Highway 34 and County Road 17 at the interchange that allow drivers to speed up or slow down. The eastbound on ramp from Highway 34 would no longer curve onto 17, but would meet the road at a stop sign. Westbound traffic on County Road 17 would also exit onto the off-ramp for County Road 17 at a 90-degree turn instead of the existing curved exit ramp.
At the UCPR Committee of the Whole meeting on October 14, Interim Director of Public Works Jérémie Bouchard explained that the MTO had not changed its position on the ramps and lanes. The ministry has contended that traffic volumes have decreased and no longer warrant the design. The bridges are being replaced as they are 65 years old and in deteriorating condition.
Bouchard said that the UCPR could decide to take a political approach with its objections to the proposed design.
Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjardins, a frequent critic of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Amanda Simard, said that local provincial political representation is “zero.”
Assaly said that she would like the MTO to ensure there is sufficient lighting around the interchange.
Alfred and Plantagenet Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin questioned the safety of having a stop sign at a major intersection.
Assaly said she was surprised at the MTO’s information stating traffic volumes at the intersection had decreased.
Riopel noted that the intersection of the eastbound Highway 417 ramps with Tannery Road at Highway 34 by Herb’s Travel Plaza was the site of many serious and fatal accidents before traffic lights were installed there in 2019. Riopel suggested that the MTO be held responsible for the first accident that occurs at the new stop-sign controlled intersection at Highway 34 and County Road 17.
“An intersection at the 17 is going to cause problems,” said Riopel.
UCPR Warden Pierre Leroux suggested that council send a strongly worded letter to the MTO, including a copy to Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, expressing the counties’ dissatisfaction and placing responsibility upon the ministry for the first accident that occurs at the intersection.
The motion to send the letter was moved by Riopel and seconded by Assaly.
“We’ll even copy our MPP for the heck of it,” said Leroux.