“We need the ministry’s support to push Ottawa for widening the highway,” said Jérémie Bouchard, public works director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), during a January 13 UCPR council meeting.
Bouchard’s comment was part of the discussion between the eight mayors and administration on planning for meetings between provincial government officials during the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) virtual conference. The annual gathering is an opportunity for delegations from rural municipalities to have one-on-one meetings with either provincial ministers or their senior aides on key rural issues.
The UCPR has three delegation sessions scheduled during ROMA. One of those meetings is with officials for infrastructure and municipal affairs ministries to talk about the proposed four-lane expansion of the County Road 17/Highway 174 connection between Rockland and Orléans.
The four-laning proposal has been a long-standing issue for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the City of Clarence-Rockland. It has the support of both the provincial and federal governments, who have each committed to funding the project when it does get approved.
An environmental assessment has been done, with recommendations for the best option to expand the existing two-lane highway link to four-lane status. The problem is that the City of Ottawa does not give the same priority to the project as does the UCPR. Highway 174 is part of Ottawa’s municipal transportation system just as County Road 17 is part of the UCPR road system.
Four-laning of the 17/174 link between Orléans and Rockland has low priority in the City of Ottawa’s current Master Transportation Plan (MTP). The city is focusing its transportation improvement efforts on its new light rapid transit (LRT) system and does not expect to address the four-lane expansion proposal for Highway 174 until 2030 at the earliest.
Bouchard noted that there is “no real benefit” to the UCPR to just have the County Road 17 part of the highway link expanded to four lanes. That would just result in a severe traffic bottleneck situation at the Canaan Road intersection west of Rockland where County Road 17 and Highway 174 join.
“What we need is the ministries’ support to push the Ottawa side of the widening project,” said Bouchard, adding that the UCPR and the province need “something on the table” for changes to Ottawa’s MTP before 2023.
Warden Stéphane Sarrazin noted that one idea might be to emphasize to ministry officials the benefit that the four-lane link would not just benefit Clarence-Rockland. Both Alfred-Plantagenet Township and Champlain Township would benefit from a faster commuter connection to Orléans-Ottawa.