News Local

Warden still optimistic on Highway 17

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon had reassuring words for his fellow operations committee members on Monday, Aug. 8, when the committee learned that the continued expansion of Highway 17 beyond Scheel Drive is noticeably absent from the Ministry of Transportation's newest update for the 2016-2020 Southern Highways Program.

"We're not dead in the water," Emon said in response to a question by Horton Mayor Robert Kingsbury. "It's disappointing, because a lot of people and a lot of the community put lots of work into this, but it's all part of the process."

One of the major factors that could change the status of Highway 17's expansion could be the much-anticipated influx of federal infrastructure investment dollars that were central to the current Liberal government's campaign during the last election.

Once some sort of specific agreement is signed and official between the federal and provincial governments, says Emon, everyone will be in a much better position to estimate whether and where that funding could be applied.

While it is disappointing that the expansion doesn't appear to be on the province's radar over the next five years, the next phase of expansion (from Scheel Drive to Renfrew) does appear in the report's "planning for the future" section.

This constitutes one cause for cautious optimism on Emon's part. The other, he says, is that the high-profile shovels-in-the-ground work is not the be-all and end-all of the expansion project.

"There is still work going on along that corridor that's of a preparatory nature, and we had lots of comments at our last meeting. Ultimately it comes down to the ugly factor of money."

rpaulsen@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/PRyanPaulsen