Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney says the COVID-19 pandemic will not stop transportation and transit infrastructure projects from moving forward, which means more jobs for roadbuilders.
Mulroney recently discussed the status of these projects and the ministry’s response to the pandemic at the Ontario Road Builders’ Association’s (ORBA) virtual summit.
On Feb. 3, Mulroney took part in a conversation with Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s current affairs program The Agenda with Steve Paikin. The following are the highlights from the Q&A session.
Paikin: In your view does the road construction industry in this province need government assistance during the COVID period?
Mulroney: Support is needed. There is a lot of uncertainty in this industry, as in all industries, as to how the pandemic has and will continue to affect businesses. Those meetings (with ORBA) have helped and have identified some policy responses that the industry requested and identified as essential to their ability to cope with the pandemic. One of the issues that ORBA identified early on and we continue to work with them on is including language in contracts that address the possibility of another pandemic.
Paikin: What is the status update on the big-ticket projects outlined in the last budget?
Mulroney: Widening of Highway 3 between Windsor and Leamington — We have awarded the contract for phase three of that project. The first contract was awarded in October and construction is expected to begin in early spring. The preliminary design work for contract two is underway and we do expect work to begin on the resurfacing of six kilometres of the highway.
Widening of Highway 401 from Tilbury to London from four to six lanes and installation of concrete medium barriers – The community has advocated for a long time to have concrete barriers installed and we know how important it is for the safety of the drivers. The first phase of the project is underway… and should be completed by 2022. We’re doing design and EA work for phase two and phase three and we expect construction to start as early as 2022.
The Bradford Bypass – It will connect Highways 400 and the 404 and will go a long way to alleviating congestion in Simcoe County and in York Region. It’s a project that is long awaited and I know people in the area are looking forward to it.
It will be a new highway in Ontario and for ORBA it signals a lot of opportunities for construction jobs.
We have several projects underway to expand our northern highway corridors such as Highway 11 and 17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and also Highway 69 south of Sudbury.
We are committed to the twinning of Highway 17 from the Ontario-Manitoba border to Kenora. The EA process is underway for section one of that and we are continuing to work with our consultant on the planning and design work. On this project what is key is the consultation work we are doing with municipalities with property owners and especially with First Nations and Metis Communities.
Paikin: What about the $28.5 billion of transit announcements for the Greater Toronto Area…what is the status of all that? (Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension, Eglinton Crosstown West Extension and the Yonge North Subway Extension).
Mulroney: We are still moving forward with our ambitious plan for subway expansion in the Greater Toronto Area.
There was a transit infrastructure deficit in the GTA before the pandemic and there still is one. We need to compensate for that, we need to build for the future. We achieved a historic partnership with the City of Toronto and York Region on those four priority transit projects, so they are important, and they are critical for the economic goals of this region. Even as we have been dealing with the pandemic, Metrolinx has been moving forward with the plan for those.
Ridership has come down, but we know public transit is part of the future.
The building of these subways will generate a lot of construction jobs and in the future will connect people to more employment and more opportunities.
Paikin: Any thought to building a new 400 series highway?
Mulroney: We have a vision for moving forward with that. We have released a preferred route for a new 400 series highway and transit corridor across York, Peel and Halton regions. We believe that new corridor will reduce travel times for drivers and will support economic growth in the region.
We heard a lot from local governments and municipalities in those areas who want this highway built. We have released a preferred route. A round of public consultations will be held in the near future.
That will be an opportunity for us at MTO to receive feedback on the preliminary design of the preferred route. Highways alone aren’t enough.
We need to ensure our truck drivers have a safe place to stop and rest so we recently announced more rest stops, more truck parking.
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