THE Ontario government has signed contracts with Indigenous groups in the Kenora area to begin preliminary work on twinning the Trans-Canada Highway from the city to the Manitoba border.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford, who is the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, were in northwestern Ontario Friday for a signing ceremony.
"Today, Greg Rickford and I signed contracts with Indigenous partners to move forward with twinning Highway 17. I’m thrilled that the people who depend on this highway will finally get what they have been asking for," Mulroney wrote in a tweet.
The project has been talked about for more than a decade.
"Today we signed two contracts with Indigenous partners for early works to produce the raw materials needed to build the road base and for clearing work, including tree and brush removal, within the new right of way for the first section of the Highway 17 twinning," Mulroney said in a news release.
"This milestone will position us to get shovels in the ground for this section of the highway as soon as the spring."
The first phase involves the 6.5-kilometre stretch from the border to Highway 673, the road to Shoal Lake No. 39. No timeline was given for when the first phase would be completed. Currently, improvements are being made to Highway 673, to straighten and resurface it so it can be used as the staging area for the Trans-Canada Highway project.
Shoal Lake #39, along with the Four Winds Partnership — Washagamis Bay, Wauzhushk Onigum, Shoal Lake #40 and the Dalles — gave conditional consent to start the twinning project earlier this year.
The Indigenous partnership has yet to approve the second and third phases of the project.
The second phase involves twinning the 24-kilometre section from Highway 673 to Rush Bay Road; the third phase involves the 33-kilometre section from Rush Bay Road to Highway 17A, the Kenora bypass.
No costs were given for each phase of the project Friday.
In 2009, the federal and Ontario governments earmarked $100 million for it, but the project stalled and the money was spent on twinning a highway east of Thunder Bay in 2017. The Ontario Conservatives reinstated funding for the project in 2019.