Boost For Petawawa Boulevard Expansion

There's new hope that the long-awaited plan to widen Petawawa Boulevard could begin sometime this year.

The provincial government announced on Tuesday that it will make $10.2 billion available for road and bridge projects over the next decade, with projects in rural and northern communities being the first in line for a share of cash this spring.

Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy says they've got a good feeling that the boulevard expansion is exactly the kind of project that will qualify for this new provincial cash.

"Our plan is good, it's a shovel-ready project, it's a partnership project, and those are the projects that the province really likes to see, so we'll make sure that our application is in ASAP", Murphy said on Tuesday, following a meeting of County Council's operations committee.

Provincial cash has been a missing piece of the puzzle to get the $24 million boulevard expansion going, since the County of Renfrew and the Town of Petawawa cannot afford to do the work on their own.

They're also hoping to score federal cash to seal the deal, with a flurry of meetings planned in the next few weeks on that front.

The province indicated on Tuesday that those types of "cost-sharing" projects between local, provincial and federal governments are exactly what it wants to use the new infrastructure money for, hoping that such partnerships will help turn the $10.2 billion dollar invesment into $30 billion worth of projects across Ontario over the decade.

The province expects to have verdicts on the first round of applications before summer.

A Strong Case

Murphy notes that more than a decade of work has gone into the Petawawa Boulevard plan, but says there's never been a stronger case for expansion than now, because the road is at the end of its life.

"This isn't only about the delays going into and out of the Garrison, and getting into and out of Petawawa.  This is also that that road is at the end of its service life.  This is a necessary project", Murphy said.

The road is by far the busiest in the county's road network with more than 16,700 vehicles per day.

The workforce that's grown to 7,000 at Garrison Petawawa means there are often traffic jams at six different times throughout a typical weekday, since the aging two-lane boulevard is the main route to and from the military property.

Between 2013 and 2016, there were 400 collisions along the section of the road that's earmarked for expansion, between Doran Road and the Garrison entrance.

The Plan, As It Stands

The expansion calls for four lanes from Doran Road to the Garrison entrance, an entirely new streetscape above, an additional or expanded bridge over the Petawawa River to carry the extra traffic, and a redesigned entrance to the Garrison that will include a traffic roundabout. 

Garrison Petawawa is also planning to expand Menin Boulevard on its side of the gate, so that the flow of traffic from the four-laned Petawawa Boulevard remains continuous once on military property.

Officials have said that plan will depend on money in this year's federal budget, but they were confident they'd be able to do it in tandem with the boulevard expansion.

The Waiting Game

"We've been extremely patient", Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet said, upon learning of the new provincial infrastructure money on Tuesday.

"Hopefully we'll get all of the t's crossed and the i's dotted, and meet all of the criteria".

When asked how soon construction could begin if all of the stars line up, Sweet said that could happen later this year.

"It would be nice to think shovels could go in the ground later this year", Sweet said.

"But that's very aggressive at this point in time", he cautioned.

"A project of this magnitude, there has to be public consultation and public input".

Still, the County of Renfrew is wasting no time getting the other pieces lined up.  The County's Operations Committee on Tuesday voted to commission an updated design plan for the boulevard widening, so that public hearings, and then the construction process, can begin as soon as the money is firmed up.

"We are feeling very positive about this project", said Warden Murphy.