UPDATE: Ford government will widen Highway 3

Ontario Minister of Transportation and Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney in Leamington, August 12, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

It is official.  Highway 3 will finally be widened from Essex to Leamington.

Construction will start in 2021.

During a media event along Highway 3 in Leamington, Ontario Minister of Transportation and Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney made the announcement, accompanied by Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls, Essex County Warden Gary McNamara, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald, Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and other Windsor-Essex mayors and councillors.

In a separate project also announced Monday, Highway 3 will also be repaved between County Road 34 and Highway 77 in Leamington under a separate contract.  That work will also start in 2021.

Premier Doug Ford promised Highway 3 between Essex and Leamington would be widened to two lanes in each direction while he was campaigning in Essex County in May of 2018. Mulroney said the premier has been behind such a project all along.

“We are moving very quickly,” said Mulroney. “This project is a priority for our government. MPP Nicholls and Premier Ford have been very clear that we want to widen this highway.”

That stretch of road has had several serious and fatal crashes over the years. A recent crash occurred on June 21, when a head-on collision sent two people to hospital, one with life-threatening injuries.

The warden and local mayors were disappointed the important widening project was left off the provincial budget earlier this year. So was Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, who also attended the announcement. He said there are still questions concerning specific timelines for construction as well as exactly how it will be funded.

“We know that this government has been reluctant to identify this project in any of its major infrastructure budgeting, whether that be in the first provincial budget that they put out, or subsequent infrastructure funding of $1.2-billion which did not name this project,” said Natyshak, of the NDP.

Mulroney said firm budget figures and timetables for construction would not be known until the bidding process has been completed and contracts have been awarded. However, she said land acquisition for the Highway 3 widening is already taking place.

– With files from Paul Pedro and Adelle Loiselle.