Highway 17 Expansion Remains A Priority: Yakabuski

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski says just because he's not Transportation Minister anymore, doesn't mean the fight to expand Highway 17 will change.

Yakabuski told Star 96.7 News the widening of the highway to, and beyond, its current plans to Renfrew, remains a strong priority for him as an MPP and for the provincial government.

Yakabuski was Transportation Minister until Monday, when Premier Ford announced a shuffling of the Cabinet.

Yakabuski's new role is Minister of Natural Reources & Forestry.

He notes he's still a member of Cabinet, and still in a position to advance issues including the highway expansion.

“The next step to Renfrew was part of our platform, and the Premier made that clear", he told Star 96.7 News.

"We’re going to continue to work with the MTO and already things were moving ahead. It’s not a thing that happens overnight and no project of that magnitude is. But it’s still a priority project for me and a priority project for the Ford government.”

He notes that it's important that he has a seat at the table with a sitting government, whether it's as a Minister of one portfolio or another.

"So whether I sit on that particular Ministry of not, should not have any effect on the ability to move ahead with that project, which is so important to us here in Renfrew County, but to all of Ontario".

The next phase of the highway's expansion to Bruce Street in Renfrew is already planned.

However, the widening of the highway farther west, toward Pembroke and Petawawa, still has no timeline attached to it.

Yakabuski says property acquisition and other work along the route must still take place before any concrete plans for that stretch can be announced, and it's not clear yet when the next hurdles in that stage of the process will be cleared.