KEMPTVILLE – Amid cheers from municipal politicians, MPP Steve Clark announced Wednesday that the Ontario government has thrown its weight behind an application for federal money to widen Country Road 43.
If it’s approved by Ottawa, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville would receive just under $10 million for the road work. The federal government would kick in half the money while the province would pick up a third – $3.3 million – while the counties and North Grenville would pay the rest.
“This is a great day in North Grenville and in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville,” Clark told counties mayors and North Grenville officials gathered in the municipality’s auditorium.
The widening of County Road 43 to four lanes has long been a priority for the United Counties and its northern municipalities.
With the rapid growth of North Grenville and the corresponding traffic volumes on County Road 43, the counties recently elevated the road-widening to its No. 1 capital priority.
As more and more Ottawa residents eschew the big-city life for the small-town charms of Kemptville, traffic on County Road 43 has swelled to an average 18,500 vehicles a day on the narrow two-lane road.
Clark described the road improvements as a long-overdue safety measure for motorists and pedestrians.
“North Grenville is one of the fastest-growing regions in Eastern Ontario and we recognize the importance of expanding this vital connecting link to Highway 416 for residents and businesses,” he said.
North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford said the county road is at a breaking point and that its widening is long overdue. She acknowledged that the road is crucial to North Grenville but added that it is also important to other Eastern Ontario residents who travel it every day.
Peckford, who tenaciously fought for the widening, described the lobbying as a true team effort by Counties Warden Pat Sayeau, Clark and MP Michael Barrett, who all went to bat for the project.
North Grenville plans to spend extra money on its portion of the road to add a boulevard, lighting and a pathway for cyclists and pedestrians, she said.
The grant money would come from the federal government’s multi-year Canada Infrastructure Program. Under it, provincial governments nominate projects for the grants and agree to pony up a third of the money. Although the federal government still has to approve the grant, the province and the counties insist the federal nod is a formality.
Barrett said he was confident that the federal government would be on side with the project because it is needed and it has the support of the province and the municipal governments.
Sayeau noted that the $10 million is only part of the total cost of the widening that could run to $23 million.
He said that counties council recognized that it would be on the hook for the rest of the money when it agreed to apply for the federal-provincial grant.
The warden doubted that the counties could begin the work this fall but predicted there would be shovels in the ground by spring.
The entire widening would take about 40 months and it would be done in phases over that time, he said.
The $10 million would cover the first phase of the widening from County Road 44 to the bridge over Kemptville Creek.
North Grenville acknowledges that the road work will cause inconveniences for residents and travellers but it promises to mitigate the problems as best it can.