No “mixed passing” plans for highway
When County Road 17 sees its upgrade at last, it will be as a full-fledged four-lane highway. Any plans for an a third-lane passing setup are not on the drawing board.
More than a hundred residents of Clarence-Rockland spent Thursday evening at the Clarence Creek Arena mezzanine room listening to the latest presentation on the environmental assessment study for the County Road 17/Highway 174 upgrade. The April 23 public information session was one of three scheduled for the end of the month, with separate gatherings taking place in Orléans and Cumberland earlier in the week.
One of the most frequent queries after the formal presentation was the timeline and potential expense for upgrading the 17/174 connector between Rockland and Orléans.
“How much is it going to cost up?” asked one resident, adding whether four-laning might get pushed back to 2030 or later. “And is it (project cost) going to take into account inflation?”
Planners for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, the City of Ottawa, and the AECON consulting firm explained that the full four-lane option for the connector route between Rockland and Orléans was the best of all proposals reviewed. The highway upgrade is still the subject of an ongoing environmental assessment process (EAP) which is also tied in with one on the City of Ottawa’s plans for an eastern extension of its planned light-rapid transit system (LRT) into Orléans.
Dennis Hopper, an engineering consultant working on the LRT project, noted that the extension from Blair Road east to Orléans has a budget estimate of $500 million, using 2013 dollar-values. AECON representative Valerie McGhirr, whose company is involved in the 17/174 EAP, said that a reasonable cost estimate for four-laning would be possible once more details were worked out and confirmed on the design plan. There were complaints in response about how long the process was taking.
“By the time it (four-laning) happens, we will need six lanes,” one resident said.
Several in the audience also questioned going with the more expensive four-lane option, which would also take longer to complete, and argued that a cheaper three-lane setup could be done quicker.
The three-lane option, which would feature alternating times during the day for using the third lane as an extra commuter traffic route, is in use in Montréal at the Champlain Bridge and in several other locations in Canada and the United States. McGhirr said the that option was considered, reviewed and then discarded as unsafe for handling the commuter traffic between Rockland and Orléans.
“This section of Highway 174 and County Road 17 is not appropriate for a three-lane (option),” she said, adding there are too many private driveway entrances along the route, both along the Cumberland village section and the rural portion between Cumberland and Rockland. “It is not a safe option. The four-lane (option) with a median barrier is what is needed.”
As part of the EAP review on the concept design for the highway route, consultants looked at options for either regular signalcontrolled intersections or a limited number of roundabouts for handling four-way traffic at key points along the route, including the Cumberland Ferry turnoff at the Cameron Street intersection with the highway. The summary report noted that regular signalcontrolled intersections require less space to set up, are more convenient for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and also present fewer problems with snow removal and other maintenance needs for a major highway through route.
Ward 1 Coun. Jean-Marc Lalonde expressed concern about how much the project will cost if it keeps getting delayed. He also stated that both the City of ClarenceRockland and the City of Ottawa need to keep pressing the Queen’s Park to upload the route and redesignate back to provincial highway status.
“The cost in 1989 for four-laning was $123 million,” Lalonde said. “How much will it be in 2031? The solution is we’ve got to get together, work as a team, and make sure Toronto (Queen’s Park) takes it back.”
Marc Clermont (right), public works director for the counties, answers questions about future upgrading of the highway link between Rockland and Orléans