Correction: This story initially stated that the remainder of the project would cost $764 million. The province will not have a final cost estimate until it tenders the project next year.
The on-again, off-again plans for widening and rerouting Highway 7 between Guelph and Kitchener are back on again.
The provincial government announced Wednesday morning that it will fund the completion of the project which will see the road expanded into an 18-kilometre freeway with a new crossing over the Grand River.
The project will also include seven interchanges including a new multilevel interchange where new Highway 7 meets Highway 85.
“This long-awaited infrastructure will bring enhanced connectivity for employment and commerce in our region, and make this vital roadway safer for people travelling between Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie stated.
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.
In 2018, the province announced it was putting the expansion plans on hold for a review although some work on it did continue. It also said it was working on plans for the new bridges over the Grand River.
“We heard loud and clear that a new Highway 7 has long been a top priority for local residents, therefore today’s commitment is a clear signal that we are moving forward on this essential project,” area MPPs Mike Harris, Amy Fee and Belinda Karahalios said in a joint statement.
Field investigations and preliminary engineering work will need to be completed on the project before the province tenders and awards the contract in 2021.
A spokesperson for Harris says timelines for the completion of the project will remain unknown until after procurement is completed.
The project is a part of an overall $2.6-billion expansion and repair plan for Ontario’s highways and bridges. About $764 million of the funding will be earmarked for expansion projects alone.
*With file from Global News’ Don Mitchell