County meets with Chiarelli over Highway 17 0
One man is dead following a three-vehicle collision on Highway 17 west of Chalk River Tuesday.
A delegation from Renfrew County Council met with Ontario’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Bob Chiarelli on Wednesday to renew council’s appeal for the province to continue the extension of Highway 417.
Warden Bob Sweet, Arnprior Reeve Walter Stack and director of public works Dave Darch met with Chiarelli for a full 90 minutes. They were joined by MPP John Yakabuski, who has been a vocal advocate for the extension of a four-laned Highway 417 throughout Renfrew County.
At Thursday’s county council meeting, Reeve Stack categorized the session with Chiarelli as “open and positive,” adding there were signs of progress.
Chiarelli has asked the county to prepare a business plan/economic development study focusing on the impact and economic development benefits of the extension of Highway 417. He indicated this was vital for the project to be considered a priority undertaking for the province. The Minister added the business plan/economic development impact study should project economic development requirements and speak to increases in jobs, etc. within the next 5-10 years.
Reeve Stack said the Minister followed that up by offering to find funding to cover the cost of the environmental assessments involved in such a massive project.
“Overall, I would say it was a step forward so now we have to get the ball rolling,” he added.
To that end, a resolution was put forward through the county’s development and property committee Thursday morning directing county staff to proceed with a request for proposal (RFP) process to select a consultant to undertake a business plan/economic development study for the expansion of Highway 417, with a maximum of $45,000 allocated from the economic development reserve fund for that purpose.
Warden Sweet said the business plan will be a county-wide undertaking, including the city of Pembroke, “because everyone is affected by the highway in one way or another.”
Mr. Darch made note of the significant economic development that has transpired in and around Arnprior since the highway was extended there.
“The number of building permits in Arnprior has quadrupled since 1999, and the growth in population along with industry has been remarkable,” he said. “The province wants us to make the case that will substantiate the prioritization of expanding Highway 417, so that is our next step moving forward.”
The resolution was approved unanimously by council, and will go to CAO Jim Hutton for implementation.
Peter Lapinskie is The Daily Observer’s managing editor