Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs’ call last week for the creation of another paved highway straight through Northwestern Ontario resulted in some tittering among some of his regional counterparts, but we think Hobbs is on to something.
As anyone who has missed a medical appointment, or a flight, due to a prolonged Trans-Canada road closure knows too well, our neck of the woods is hardly teeming with highways.
While the province scrambled last week to deal with the closure of the Nipigon River bridge (now open to one lane), it noted that the structure is the “link” between this country’s west and east. The only one, in fact, when travelling by paved road.
Some may take comfort in the fact that when the $106-million cable bridge is completed, it will offer four lanes. This is good planning, but will only alleviate bottlenecks that occur on or near the bridge.
Some of the worst highway crashes occur on remote stretches of Highway 17 between Nipigon and Marathon, as well as the winding, occasionally hair-raising Highway 11 stretch between Longlac and Nipigon.
Supporters of a new highway are hardly out in left field by raising the prospect of a main secondary route: the Ministry of Transportation, no less, acknowledged that the idea has been kicked around for quite a few years.
Looking at the map north of Lake Nipigon, one can imagine Highway 11 branching off to make a connection between Longlac and Sioux Lookout, for example, essentially paralleling the CN rail line. Presumably, such a route could go through Armstrong, giving travellers and truckers the option of turning south on Highway 527 to reach Thunder Bay.
This would also open an east-west route to help to service the Ring of Fire mineral belt. There are many benefits.
The ministry correctly points out that doing this would be expensive, because of the North’s rugged and swampy terrain; it would require “years of planning.” But was there ever a Northern Ontario highway project that was a cinch to build?
Though it appears to be on hold indefinitely, the province has also looked at creating a bypass for the 200-kilometres stretch of Highway 17 between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie, which is often closed in winter due to severe lake-effect storms. Big projects are not unheard of.
This province, under the present Liberal government, has literally squandered more than $1 billion on ill-fated gas power plants and other fiascoes. It could hardly be faulted for finally doing something right in building a new highway that would, after all, become only the second “link” between east and west.
For the original source of this editorial click here: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/opinion/editorials/hobbs-is-right-build-a-new-road/article_5e333fb8-bbce-11e5-ba3b-0fa56d8b9b0e.html