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Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he wants construction to start on the widening of Highway 3.

Ford told AM800's Patty Handysides during Tuesday's edition of the Afternoon News, the widening from Essex to Leamington is still a top priority, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know they're doing the EAs and they have to purchase some property off some farmers,” Ford said. “I want to get the shovels in the ground. I remember during the election I said I'll hop on that bulldozer myself. A lot of people talked about it in the past, but we'll get it done."

Work is already taking place behind the scenes, he said.

The province has launched a website on the widening plans. The online Public Information Centre is meant to complete the study for improving the roadway from Essex to Leamington, while following restrictions of gatherings due to COVID-19.

Last August, Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls announced the twinning of Highway 3 from Essex to County Road 34, the turn off to Ruthven, would start in 2021.

Ford tells AM800 the pandemic has shown that red tape can be cut quickly.

"Throughout this pandemic we have proven when something had to get done everyone pitches in and everyone is heading in the same direction it can get done,” said Ford. “So we're going to prove that when you get cooperation from municipalities, you get cooperation from the labour side, it's going to be exciting."

Ford would like to see the environmental assessments move faster.

"In some cases it takes four to six years to do an EA. That's just unacceptable. We lost a company that wanted to invest $500-million. We lost them to Ohio and the reason they told us was, "I can't wait four to six years as we're investing hundreds of millions of dollars."

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