During its committee of the whole meeting on March 7, Clarence-Rockland council discussed the County Road 17/Highway 174 Internal Working Committee (IWC) and its terms of reference, which outlines how the committee will work to accomplish its goals. The Highway IWC was formed in November 2021 and is meant to represent the interests of Clarence-Rockland in any initiatives or projects surrounding transportation between Ottawa and Clarence-Rockland, which includes Ottawa Highway 17/Clarence-Rockland Highway 174.
For many years, the City of Clarence-Rockland had wanted to address the congestion that occurs on the 17/174 between Clarence-Rockland and Ottawa. The congestion makes travel between the two cities difficult, which Clarence-Rockland council says is a major obstacle to economic development opportunities within the municipality. A Municipal Class Environmental Assessment was completed in 2017 that showed widening the highway to four lanes is the preferred solution to this problem, but the project was estimated at a total cost of $250,000,000 as of 2015.
Furthermore, as care of the roadway was downloaded from the province to the City of Ottawa and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) in 1998, both parties need to agree on a plan of action before any action can be taken. Neither the UCPR nor the City of Ottawa believe that improving the 17/174 is warranted in the foreseeable immediate future.
Councillor Andre Lalonde made mention of this during the meeting, saying that that Clarence-Rockland has concentrated its efforts on widening the highway for 25 years now, which hasn’t worked. However, with the appointment of Dave Darch to the IWC, Lalonde is hopeful that Darch and the committee will find alternative solutions to the congestion problem. Clarence-Rockland is growing southward, so alternate routes other than the 17/174 will soon be necessary to facilitate travel to Ottawa.
Despite this, there is merit in identifying Clarence-Rockland’s long-term needs when it comes to the roadway and in ensuring these needs are taken into consideration. The report submitted to the committee of the whole recommends that council approve funds to an upset limit of $100,000 from the tax stabilization reserve to fund the committee.
The report outlines several examples of activities the money will be used to fund, such as qualitative and quantitative assessments to see whether economic development opportunities in Clarence-Rockland are compromised by the congestion on the highways. Objective, quantifiable data will be necessary to prove Clarence-Rockland’s need for a widened highway if funding opportunities become available.
The terms of reference for the internal working committee will be voted on during the next regular meeting on March 23.