The Thunder Bay Expressway could be in for a facelift.
At the very least Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation intends to delve into a plan that could consider alternatives to the busy roadway’s interchange locations and designs.
MTO spokeswoman Annemarie Piscopo, reached by email, said the ultimate goal is to provide a four-lane, divided expressway.
"The Ministry of Transportation is commencing a planning and preliminary design study for a 13.3-kilometre section of the Thunder Bay Expressway between Arthur Street and Balsam Avenue to review and assess various alternatives to provide a new four-lane divided TBE with interchanges," Piscopo said.
Among the proposals on the table are partial clover leafs at Red River Road and Balsam Street and overpasses at John Street and Oliver Road, the latter of which could also get a south-east ramp.
A partial freeway-to-freeway interchange is a possibility at the Harbour Expressway.
Schematics provided by the MTO also include a yet-to-be-built North West Arterial route located between Oliver Road and John Street, an interchange that would include partial cloverleafs and roundabouts.
The new link would be the responsibility of the city, first identified in the 1980s.
"The ministry study will include an assessment to confirm the interchange configuration of the Northwest Arterial and the TBE," Piscopo said, directing further inquiries to the City of Thunder Bay.
Red River Coun. Brian McKinnon said he welcomes the study.
"All you have to do is drive those interchanges at five o'clock or 4:30 in the afternoon and you'll see traffic is brutal," McKinnon told Thunder Bay Television.
Step 1 is involving the public, which the MTO plans to do on Tuesday, hosting a late-afternoon, early-evening open house at the Valhalla Inn.
In addition to MTO staff, consultants from AECOM will also be on hand to discuss the plans with residents.
Piscopo said there is no current timeline on the when project, which first arose in the 1990s, might reach the construction stage.
"At this time, the project is not approved for construction in the 2014-2018 Northern Highways Program," she said.
The MTO says the study is in the process for a Group B project under the Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Transportation Facilities, a process that includes both public and agency consultation, development and evaluation of possible alternatives, an assessment of the impact the improvements might have on the surrounding area as well as any adverse effects and how to mitigate them.
At the study’s conclusion a report will document the findings and be posted for a 30-day public review.
Tuesday’s four-hour session, which begins at 4 p.m., will be conducted using an informal drop-in format. The group is also expected to meet with council at Monday night’s meeting to discuss the plan.
The MTO document says next steps also include consultation with the city, different agencies and adjacent landowners.
A third public consultation is scheduled for the fall.