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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex County update on Highway 3 plans

- Leamington reps upset widening will only go from Essex to Union Ave. in Kingsville -

by Adam Gault

The Provincial government’s promise to tackle the proposed widening of Highway 3 is coming a little bit closer to fruition, as member of County Council received an update on the state of the project at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

  Dan Green, a Senior Manager with the consulting firm GHD Ltd, provided a report on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), that detailed the near-final plans for the long-awaited Highway 3 widening project. The project would have Highway 3 become four-lanes from Essex, east to Union Avenue in the Town of Kingsville, with a 15-metre wide grass median dividing the two directions.

  This plan would also have the addition of traffic signals along Highway 3 at Belle River Road, County Road 18, and Graham Side Road, as well as closing Highway 3 access off from some low traffic roads, such as Marsh Road, Inman Side Road, Upcott Side Road, and Cameron Side Road, which has been a contentious issue for some area residents and business owners.

  Leading up to this presentation, there was a public feedback forum on the project, where members of the public could submit their thoughts or concerns as it related to the project. The largest number of comments were related to the proposed closure of access from Cameron Side Road, with a number of farmers and residents expressing concerns over local transportation and access needs.

  This resulted in a petition being put forward by several local businesses to keep the Cameron Side Road open. The petition was, however, rejected by the Ministry, which stated the road would be closed due to low traffic volume, in addition to motorist for safety concerns.

  While the County would be able to attempt to prevent the closure of these side roads, the MTO would also be able to appeal, with the ultimate decision to be decided in Queen’s Park.

  Several members of the County Council expressed dismay the plans for widening are only going as far east as County Road 34, and not further into Leamington as they believe is warranted with the amount of commercial traffic in the area.

  “I’m just a little disappointed that it didn’t go to at least 31 (Albuna Townline), or at least even then to Highway 77, with the large volume of semis with greenhouse produce,” Leamington Deputy Mayor, Larry Verbeke, said. “I’m glad you didn’t close County Road 18, and I’m a little disappointed you didn’t take it four lanes to (Highway) 77.”

  In response, Green noted the Ministry has studied the traffic volumes in the area, and came to the conclusion that volume significantly decreases east of Union, hence why, at this time, widening is not being considered further east of that intersection.

Green also added that if it was determined there was a significant number of accidents along that stretch, then the MTO might look at additional improvements at a later date.

  Leamington Mayor, Hilda MacDonald, was also passionate in stating the expansion didn’t go far enough, citing a continued explosion in new greenhouse developments in the region, and the increase in commercial traffic that will come with it.

  “I’m just surprised when we’re the largest urban centre in the county, that we wouldn’t warrant the widening down to our end,” MacDonald said. “I just find that very difficult to understand.”

  While there is no set timeline for the commencement of the project, Premier Ford has stated the end of 2021 or early 2022 as possible starting dates.

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