Ontario plans highway expansions in east

by Emily Atkins

The Ontario government has released a draft transportation plan for the eastern part of the province.

It envisions widening Highway 401 to eight lanes from east of Kingston to the Highway 416 junction, as well as addressing congestion in the city of Ottawa by adding lanes to the main transport corridor, Highway 417.

The plan, Connecting the East: a draft transportation plan for eastern Ontario, suggests more than 50 near- and long-term actions, but does not put a timeline on any of the improvements.

According to the document, the region is currently home to 1.8 million people, with 53 percent living in Ottawa, and 28 percent living in rural areas. The government expects the population will rise to over 2.4 million by 2051.

The Highway 417 expansion would make the route four continuous lanes in each direction between Highway 416 – which connects to Highway 401 – and Maitland Avenue in Ottawa. The report points out that the 417 is frequently above capacity during the morning rush hour, creating gridlock for commuters. Interprovincial trucks are also forced to travel through the downtown area, which adds to the congestion.

The report notes that half of the traffic daily on the 401 corridor is trucks. The plan would add truck stops and better interchanges on the route to accommodate long combination vehicles (LCVs).

A new marine strategy may be part of a new focus on intermodal opportunities, the report says. Municipal airports, including Kingston, Muskoka and numerous smaller ones, could also be integrated into a courier network for more efficient expedited parcel delivery.

The government consulted with local groups to develop the plan and will continue to do so as it evolves. The province will conduct a long-range technical study of the transportation network, starting in the summer of 2022.