Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls at the Ontario Legislature, October 4, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Ontario Legislature via YouTube)

Speed Up Hwy. 401 Expansion Says MPP

The MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex is urging the province to get on with the expansion of Hwy. 401 in Chatham-Kent.

Rick Nicholls says he spoke with Ministry of Transportation officials this week to tell them that plans to widen the 401 from four to six lanes and add a concrete barrier from Tilbury to London are too slow.

“The number of fatal accidents including cross-overs are only going to increase as transport traffic continues to climb,” Nicholls says.

He says it’s imperative that the province begins to expand the highway now and build the barrier before the new Gordie Howe Bridge joining Windsor and Detroit is built by 2022.

“Why wait until the bridge is built before construction on widening the 118 km stretch of highway including a concrete barrier is started,” he says. “This 401 highway project is going to take many years to complete and with congested transport and vehicle traffic increasing every year, more lives will be put at risk. Hundreds of thousands of people travel this corridor every year. Safety must be a priority,” Nicholls says.

According to the MTO, an environmental assessment (EA) can take up to four years before any construction is started. Nicholls emphatically says that is completely unacceptable.

“The government must find a way to expedite their processes without compromising the quality of work being done. The stretch from Tilbury to Hwy. 40 has recently undergone extensive work. Surely the EA done on that stretch can be updated quickly and the widening of the highway and the addition of a concrete barrier can begin starting in Spring,” he says.

He says the high-tension cable median barriers starting at Tilbury are expected to be installed by the end of 2018 with the final completion of the stretch to be 2022.

“These cable barriers will stop cars from crossing the median but we [the build the barrier group] have very strong reservations as to whether these cables will withstand the impact of a fully loaded transport trailer,” Nicholls says.