Government needs to finish Highway 26 work in Collingwood
(April 10, 2017) One of my proudest accomplishments as your Member of Provincial Parliament was getting approval for the Highway 26 realignment project between Wasaga Beach and Collingwood.
This new controlled-access highway has greatly improved transportation safety in our community.
When the project was announced in the early 2000s, my party was still in power and we saw the importance of doing this work.
Unfortunately, after the 2003 provincial election, the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty stopped the project for several years. It was partisan politics at its worst and a dark period for all of us in the north end of the riding.
Residents will recall we collected 10,000 signatures on a petition that demanded the government finish the highway.
It was only after lobbying efforts by local residents, municipal politicians, and after I raised the matter on many, many occasions in the legislature, that the Liberals agreed to move ahead and finish the highway.
The new section opened in 2012, but a small piece of the project remains outstanding to this day.
Municipal and provincial officials know it as Phase 3, which involves widening the highway to five lanes, between the Sixth Line and Pretty River Parkway, and extending Sandford Fleming Drive.
Sadly, the Liberals are again dragging their heels and it remains unclear when they will get to work on this part of the highway.
I've written to the Minister of Transportation several times and urged the government to get the job done. I have also spoken with Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca. And, last week I questioned the government on the issue.
However, it appears common courtesy has gone out the window as I can't get a response from the government.
Such silence is disrespectful to the people of this community. I would never have exhibited that type of behaviour in the years I served as a minister.
As things stand now, Highway 26, between Sixth Line and Pretty River Parkway, is a non-divided two-lane road, without sufficient turning lanes.
Town of Collingwood officials are frustrated that the highway project has once again ground to a halt.
And I'm not impressed with the situation, either.
Municipal representatives, in a briefing note to the provincial government, state the present situation, "creates serious problems for traffic flow, as well as our secondary routes, as many drivers try to find alternate ways to access...Collingwood."
As well, the town notes there are "numerous safety concerns that arise from the sudden convergence of so much traffic into a much narrower road. Access on and off the two-lane section of highway is another serious safety concern. Cars must wait a long time for gaps in the traffic and cars waiting to turn are often passed on the right hand shoulder. Manoeuvring on and off this two-lane section is tricky and dangerous at times."
We've all seen the problems outlined by the town.
Given how often the government touts the importance of road safety, you'd think they would address this section of Highway 26 sooner than later.
The government's inaction is also holding up job creation and economic development.
Once the highway work is complete, and Sandford Fleming Drive is connected to the new section of highway, significant commercial development in that area can proceed.
This development will result in the creation of more than 70 jobs.
This issue with the highway has been unresolved now for five years and that's totally unacceptable.
People expect better from the government. I know I certainly do.
I've raised this issue in the Ontario Legislature and I will continue to press the Liberal government to get the job finished.
Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.