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The provincial government has announced the widening of Highway 3 between Essex and Leamington, but the work will not take place for another two years.

On Monday, Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, was joined by Rick Nicholls, the MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington, to announce the widening of Highway 3 from two to four lanes between the two towns.

"Widening and improving safety on Highway 3 is a priority for this government," said Mulroney. "From day one we have been committed to improving road safety and making life easier for families and businesses by delivering on transportation projects in every corner of the province."

The stretch of highway has seen several fatal collisions over the years.

Local officials throughout the region were disappointed the project was not included in the list of highway improvements announced in March 2019.

The exact location for the project is from the Town of Essex to County Road 34 in Ruthven. Mulroney also announced a six-kilometre section from County Road 34 to Highway 77 will be repaved.

The work is not expected to begin until 2021.

That is not good enough for Kingsville residents Ray Sterling and Ray Perrault. They had scheduled a protest on September 7 to slowdown traffic in order to force the province to finish the widening of Highway 3.

Sterling tells CTV Windsor that protest will still go ahead as planned.

"2021? Really? Why can't they start putting out tenders like, tomorrow?" said Sterling. "All of the environmental studies, all the land, everything is done. Like why are we doing this? Just start it and finish it.”

Mulroney said property acquisition has already begun and they are working on the environmental studies to get the work done as soon as possible.

"Everybody wants it done immediately, I understand that, so would I, but unfortunately we don't have a magic wand to wave,” added Nicholls.

Provincial officials say the widening of Highway 3 will encourage business investment and create jobs by reducing congestion and commute times for residents and commercial vehicles.

"I'm proud that our government is delivering on its promise and making this project a priority by accelerating the planning, so that we can get shovels in the ground as quickly as possible," said Nicholls. "Not only will the widening of Highway 3 improve safety, but it will also bring economic opportunity to the residents and businesses of Essex County."

Residents and politicians have lobbied for the provincial government to finish the widening of the highway from two to four lanes since the first phase was completed.

“I am very pleased to learn of the announcement of the widening of Hwy 3,” said Lakeshore mayor Tom Bain. “MPP Nicholls and I have been advocating for this for several years.”

Bain and Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens both said they are thankful Premier Doug Ford is fulfilling his campaign promise on this critical and longstanding issue.

“The widening of Highway 3 from two to four lanes will not only improve safety for our residents, but also pave the way for greater economic growth along this busy corridor,” said Dilkens. “This important project demonstrates our region is open for business.”

The cost of the project has not been released.

Mulroney said that will be announced once the bidding process is complete.

The New Democrat MPP for Essex, Taras Natyshak, said he will be watching the project closely.

“The Ford government has yet to invest a single dollar in the funding of widening Highway 3. Doug Ford didn’t bother to include this project in his 2019 budget, and he didn’t announce a single dollar of funding today,” said Natyshak. “2021 is too long for our community to wait for shovels to hit the ground. This plan shortchanges the needs of Chatham-Kent-Leamington and does nothing to address the immediate safety concerns of citizens.”

2 to 4 lane expansion announced for Highway 3 from Essex to Leamington. @CTVWindsor pic.twitter.com/wx3oiTlzEB

— Chris Campbell (@CCampbellCTV) August 12, 2019