Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
THUNDER BAY -- The twinning of Highway 11/17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon will continue.
The province confirmed an additional 16-kilometre stretch will be four-laned, beginning as early as next year.
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle, speaking Monday at the Terry Fox Lookout, added the province is committing $527 million to the Northern Highways Program in 2014-15, which includes an additional 17 kilometres under construction between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and expansion of Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury.
Gravelle said by next year there should be a continuous stretch of 33 kilometres of highway twinned between the two communities.
“We have a project that will get us to Pass Lake and today the announcement of funding to have further projects from Pass Lake to Pearl and work that’s being done coming back the other way,” Gravelle said.
“So this obviously a huge section of highway, 103 kilometres between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and we’re going to get the four-laning completed. Today was another great step forward.”
Ministry of Transportation manager of operations Wayne Prystanski said the government is in the process of putting out expressions of interest for the first stage of the project starting at Birch Beach.
“We’ll shortlist the contractors down to three and then they’ll submit their RFP documents to us with their bid prices. Hopefully by the end of this year we’ll be able to announce the successful contractor for that job and they will then proceed with the design of that section.”
Prystanski said he expects construction will likely get under way some time in 2015, a two- to three-year job.
The second portion of the project, at South Trout creek should have tenders sent out this fall.
“Depending on when the contract is awarded for that, construction could start this winter,” Prystanski said. “And if not, then they’ll start construction of that project in 2015.”
It’s expected to take three to four years to complete.
Nathan Lawrence, president of the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce, said the road work is welcomed by his organization and its members.
“Transportation investment is key to the success of a lot of businesses that operate in this part of the province,” Lawrence said.
“Reliable and very safe transportation allows for the very safe transportation of employees, staff, goods and visitors who come across this part of the province and plays a very key role in the long-term success of our region.”