The MPP for Kenora-Rainy River says the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Kenora could start in 2019.
Greg Rickford, the minister responsible for energy, mines, Northern development and Indigenous affairs, said the provincial government would like to get the project started, and he hopes "as timelines go, if everything works out, we would be able to do that maybe as early as the spring."
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has already hired WSP Canada Group Ltd. to undertake planning, preliminary design and environmental assessment studies.
A 6.5-kilometre section of Highway 17 from Highway 673 to the Manitoba border will be the first to be twinned.
"Right now, we're finishing off a renewed and revitalized engagement process with the Indigenous community. This was something that was sadly neglected by the previous government," Rickford said in an interview.
He said a twinned highway to Manitoba is "one of the single, biggest, most important safety factors" for the Kenora region, as well as an opportunity to promote economic development.
A drop-in, open house session with WSP and MTO representatives will be held this month in Kenora to provide an overview of the project, and the preferred plan for the initial four-laning.
The public information centre is scheduled for Nov. 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Clarion Lakeside Inn.
Planning and preliminary design work for twinning west of Kenora actually started in 2009, and environmental study reports were filed for public review. However, the studies were never completed, and the project did not proceed further.
"Sadly, this wasn't able to move forward...We know the City of Kenora and the region beyond wants a twinned highway," Rickford said.
After he was elected to the legislature in June, the minister expressed anger over the fact considerable work has been done to twin Highway 11-17 near Thunder Bay, while "we haven't even got a shovel in the ground" near Kenora.
He accused the previous Liberal government of "serving the interests of Liberal candidates in Thunder Bay."