The ongoing project which would move the route of Highway 7 is under review by the provincial government which many fear will cause more delays.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation said that the new provincial government is reviewing all projects to look for cost savings.
“We are currently reviewing all projects and spending committed to by the last government, and taking the necessary steps to make sure we are best positioned to provide quality, safe and efficient transportation options to all Ontarians,” Kersondra Hickey told Global News in an emailed statement. “One of the projects currently under review is the new Highway 7 from Kitchener to Guelph.”
The provincial government began researching the idea of rerouting Highway 7 in the ’90s but work did not begin until 2015.
Since that point, the Guelph Street overpass on Highway 85 has been widened, municipal utilities on Victoria Street have been moved and work has begun on clearing selected areas of the new highway corridor. In addition, the replacement of the Victoria Street overpass of Highway 85 will be done in the spring.
Hickey notes that “the ministry is also undertaking the detailed design of the two new Highway 7 bridges that will cross the Grand River as well as other engineering, property acquisition and environmental work required to complete the entire new Highway 7 project.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has never been a proponent of the decision to move the highway, having preferred adjustments to the existing route rather than a whole highway but he figures it is too late to turn back now.
“Now that the province has spent over a $100 million putting in the new highway, at this point, finish the project,” he said.
“The work’s already been done so to not complete that work is irresponsible so just get it done.”
Outgoing Waterloo regional chair Ken Seiling is frustrated by the news.
“Obviously, it is disappointing for everybody,” he explained. “This project has been on the books for decades. It’s slowly getting going and there’s a commitment and we are beginning to see work on it.”
Seiling believes the highway’s transition is not just important for economic reasons but also for safety purposes as well.
“This whole area is an important part of the provincial, the Canadian economy. I think anything that can provide better infrastructure is good for us economically but probably more importantly from a safety perspective, that road is a dangerous road,” he explained.
“There have been a significant number of deaths and accidents on that highway, especially in the winter months when the road conditions aren’t so good because it is so heavily travelled.”
Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky says he plans to be an advocate for the region to get work on the project completed.
“Highway 7 is currently not a safe or efficient way for commuters to travel between Guelph and the Region of Waterloo,” he said in an emailed statement to Global News. “I will be advocating on behalf of our community to ensure this project gets the priority it deserves.”
Seiling hopes that after a quick review, things get back on track.
“It says it is a review so I am hoping that it makes it through the review and they get back on track again as quickly as possible because it is a significant piece of infrastructure for this region,” Seiling said.
*With files from CJOY’s Matt Carty