Officials are hopeful the design of the Highway 34 and County Road 17 interchange on the southern edge of Hawkesbury will remain as-is.

In winter 2019, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) announced plans to reconstruct the bridge on County Road 17 where it crosses Hawkesbury Creek, the CN railway tracks, and the adjacent interchange with Highway 34. The MTO retained jurisdiction over the short section of highway after it downloaded the rest of Highway 17 in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) to the regional government in 1998. The MTO wants to replace the aging bridges, which were constructed in 1955.

The original redesign of the interchange proposed by the MTO was to have traffic on the ramps from Highway 34 to County Road 17 eastbound and westbound meet 17 at a stop sign, rather than the existing configuration where vehicles can enter the road without stopping. The MTO contended the present ramp configuration is no longer necessary because traffic volumes did not warrant it. The MTO also proposed removing the additional lanes underneath the overpass on Highway 34 which allow vehicles to change lanes and adjust speed based on the route they are following. 

When the MTO announced the planned redesign, then-Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly and Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel both disagreed with the ministry’s arguments and objected to changing the design. Current Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Lefebvre also opposes the MTO’s proposed redesign of the interchange.

“It was never a good idea as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

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Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Member of Provincial Parliament Stéphane Sarrazin has met with the Minister of Transportation about local objections to redesigning the interchange.

According to UCPR Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Parisien, the MTO has halted its effort to acquire property to the northeast of the interchange which would have been required for the redesigned ramp configuration. Parisien is hopeful that is an indication the ministry has decided to keep the design as it currently is.

Lefebvre is also optimistic the design will remain unchanged.

“It works very well,” he said.

Lefebvre is pleased there are indications the MTO will not change the design of the Highway 34 and County Road 17 interchange, but he wants to be sure the issue will still be addressed.