Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek included the four-laning of Highway 69 in a list of the province's priorities Feb. 5 during a speech to the members of the Ontario Road Builders Association.
The fate of the project has been a matter of speculation since the June election, when the Liberal government fell to Premier Doug Ford's Conservatives.
The project was included in a line-by-line review of government spending. And Greg Rickford, minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs, added to speculation when he was in town Jan. 24. When asked about the project, Rickford said he understands its importance, and said it should have been completed years ago.
“I see the opportunity and we understand the potential, and the safety and the good economic sense that twinning makes, and we will be strategically committed to continuing with those projects,” Rickford said. “But we’re also going to be announcing some twinning of the highway out in my neck of the woods pretty soon, too.”
While that implied that the province's priorities were in the northwest, his office later clarified Rickford wasn't commenting on the fate of Highway 69.
During his Feb. 5 speech, Yurek offered a bit more clarity on the province's plans. He said the province is still reviewing all proposed projects “to make sure we are best positioned to provide quality and efficient transportation options to all Ontarians.
“The good news is that, in a few short months, since the election, we have already started making progress to restore fiscal discipline to Ontario,” he said.
Yurek then listed projects the province is moving forward on, and it included Hwy. 69.
“We're moving forward towards four lanes on Highway 17, west of Arnprior and Highway 3, between Leamington and Windsor,” he told the roads conference. “MTO is moving forward on major projects like the 400 expansion, the 427 expansion, the twinning of Highway 69 between Sudbury and Parry Sound.
“And the twinning of Highway 17, between Kenora and the Manitoba border,” Yurek added, in reference to the roadway Rickford mentioned. “We will strengthen and expand our highway network and we will do it together.”
Long a priority for the city, work has gone on for decades four-laning the 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 and the CN Rail line at Highway 522, there will be 68 kilometres to complete, at an estimated cost of $200 million.
The previous Liberal 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.
While committing on the project, Yurek didn't offer specifics such as when the government aims to complete the work.