Construction on Highway 401 near Tilbury (Photo by Jake Kislinsky)

Ontario budget includes changes for ‘Carnage Alley’ with Highway 401 expansion

Details released in the Ontario budget show a commitment towards a couple of different infrastructure projects in the region, including work on Highway 401 between Tilbury and London.

The Ford government released its first budget Wednesday evening.

“I love where we ended up in this budget. We’re protecting what matters most to people, especially in health and education,” said MPP Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure. “At the same time, we’re also putting Ontario on a sustainable path forward so we can protect those key services.”

The government did include a commitment to work on several highways, including the 401. As stated in the budget, 128 kilometres of highway from Tilbury to London will be expanded from four to six lanes. The expansion will also include concrete median barriers. However, a timeframe on the project remains up in the air.

“We’re going to move as quickly as possible. We have announced a wide variety of infrastructure projects in Southwestern Ontario,” said McNaughton. “We’re going to spend $500 million on roads and bridges and widening Highway 401 from Tilbury to London is certainly a priority and I know the Minister of Transportation is moving forward as quickly as possible.”

That stretch of the highway between Tilbury and London is often referred to as “Carnage Alley” because of the number of collisions that occur. Because of that, advocates like Alysson Storey have been pushing for greater safety measures.

“It’s reassuring to see the highway widening commitment in writing. Now it’s time we see it in reality,” said Storey. I have no doubt the reason why this was included in the budget is because he pushed for it and we are very thankful for that. We just cannot ignore the fact there have been at least 15 incidents in Carnage Alley, including three fatalities, between London and Tilbury in 2019 alone.”

In regards to improving health care in Chatham-Kent, McNaughton said the PCs are still planning to move forward on expansion plans at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s Sydenham campus. McNaughton was in Wallaceburg in February to make a funding announcement. At this point, McNaughton said drawings on the redevelopment are being done, however, a target date of completion has yet to be set.

“We presented [the CKHA] with $500,000 to do that work and I look forward to making an announcement very soon on the update of that project,” he said.

Besides areas such as infrastructure and health care, the budget did put a significant focus on regulations surrounding gambling and alcohol consumption. The PCs said they plan to work with municipalities in order to pass laws that would let people drink in parks or other designated public areas, which is also in relation to allowing tailgate parties outside of sports events.  The government also plans to allow licensed establishments to start serving alcohol as early as 9 a.m.

However, McNaughton said he does not foresee this causing any negative implications in the future.

“I’ve long been on the record saying we need to modernize our alcohol system in the province of Ontario,” he said. “Our government campaigned on the commitment to bring more choice and convenience to consumers and let responsible adults make the choices that are best for them.”

McNaughton said province-wide consultations are expected to continue and that involves speaking with law enforcement in different municipalities with regards to policing.