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Ford government reviews spending on Sudbury-Toronto highway four-laning

Delays in land acquisition pushes back Highway 69 completion date three years

The province is conducting a line-by-line review of all spending programs, including money set aside to four-lane Highway 69, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) confirmed Aug. 28.

When elected in June, Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives (PC) vowed they would review all government spending commitments made by the outgoing Liberal government. Kristin Franks, a spokesperson for MTO, said Transportation Minister John Yakabuski will be briefed on Highway 69 and other highway projects as he settles into his new job.

“The new government has committed to a comprehensive line-by-line audit of government spending,” Franks said in an email.

“This will review all projects and spending committed by the last government.”

Long a priority for the City of Greater Sudbury, work has gone on for decades four-laning the northeastern Ontario road connecting Sudbury and Toronto.

About $850 million has been spent since 2003, expanding 132 kilometres of the roadway.

Once work is completed on a 14-kilometre section between Alban (south of Sudbury) and the CN Rail line at Highway 22, there will be 68 kilometres to complete, at an estimated cost of $200 million.

The previous Wynne government had committed to completing the project by 2017, but said delays in land acquisition, environmental reviews, and agreements with First Nations pushed the deadline back to 2020.

Former Sudbury MPP and cabinet minister Glenn Thibeault said during the provincial election campaign in June the money to finish the job was already set aside in the budget.

"It still is a fully funded program,” he said. "We've made sure that no matter what government is in place, the money for this is there and this is still a commitment.”

However, during the June election campaign, Sudbury PC candidate Troy Crowder declined to say a Tory government would commit to finishing the job.

"As a Northerner, I would love to see the four-laning finished, the sooner the better,” Crowder said during an all-candidates debate, adding that Ford's plan is to “move our province forward as quickly as we can to make it a healthier economy for everybody."