Work has started to finally twin Highway 17 between Kenora and the Ontario/Manitoba border.
Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford says preliminary tree clearing work has begun between the border and the junction of Highway 673, and crews from Shoal Lake #39 First Nation are about two to three kilometres deep into their work.
“We weren’t kidding,” said Rickford, referencing the construction finally beginning this spring. Rickford and Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, made the official announcement that work would begin in November 2021.
“I’m so thrilled,” adds Rickford. “We’re about to close out on the [Request for Proposal] for the road surfacing, so the next step after the tree clearing can commence in earnest. Folks should see something that starts to look like a road [by the end of winter].”
Phase one of the work is set for the 6.5 kilometre stretch from the Ontario / Manitoba border to the junction of Highway 673. Phase two of the work includes the stretch between Highway 673 and Rush Bay Road, and phase three is between Rush Bay and Highway 17A into Kenora.
Chiefs and councillors from the Four Winds Partnership, which includes Washagamis Bay, Wauzhushk Onigum, Shoal Lake #40 and Dalles, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the province to move forward with the twinning work in February 2020, after forming the partnership in 2018.
The Four Winds partnership has yet to give consent to Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the twinning project. If all approvals move forward, the Ministry of Transportation says the highway could be fully twinned by 2025.
The $100 million project to twin Highway 17 was announced in 2009 by Rickford when he was a federal MP for the Kenora riding, as well as then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty. The funds were later spent on a twinning project near Thunder Bay in 2017.