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Concrete barrier construction on Highway 401 in Tilbury, Ont., could start before end of 2020

A section of Hwy 401 near Communication Road in Chatham-Kent as seen on Oct. 26, 2020.
A section of Hwy 401 near Communication Road in Chatham-Kent as seen on Oct. 26, 2020. via 511on.ca

The province says the construction of a concrete barrier along 11 km of the roughly 125-km stretch of Highway 401 between Tilbury and London dubbed Carnage Alley could start before the end of the year.

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek made the announcement on Monday, saying the $67.8-million investment will cover the area from Tilbury to Merlin Road in Chatham-Kent and is part of the larger project to widen and install concrete barriers along the entire stretch between Tilbury and London.

Read more: Ontario begins expansion of highways 6, 401 between Hamilton and Guelph

Coco Paving Inc. has been chosen for the work, which will see the section of highway widen from four to six lanes, add the concrete median barriers, as well as construct a new storm sewer system.

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Construction could start as early as the end of 2020, according to the government.

“Everyone in our community knows how vital Highway 401 is to the success of Southwestern Ontario,” said Yurek in a statement.

“Widening Highway 401 and installing concrete median barriers will make our roads safer and continue to keep people and goods moving in the region.”

The concrete barriers have been many years in the making.

In the summer of 2017, Londoners Sarah Payne, 42, and Freya Payne, 5, were killed when a pickup truck driving east crossed the Highway 401 median near Dutton and collided with their westbound van.

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Read more: Cambridge man sentenced to 8 years in impaired crash that killed London mother, daughter

Friend Alysson Storey began advocating for barriers soon after, starting a petition that gathered over 4,000 signatures and was tabled at Queen’s Park in October 2017 by Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls.

She also campaigned online under the Twitter hashtag #BuildTheBarrier and a Facebook group also helps spread the message.

Nicholls also hosted a town hall event in November 2017 in Chatham to discuss the issue.

“I have no doubt that my friend Sarah and her five-year-old daughter would be alive today if that barrier was in place,” Storey previously told Global News ahead of the town hall event three years ago.

“That’s the story for many fatalities here, many injuries, all sorts of collisions.”

Read more: Province announces concrete barriers are coming to Hwy. 401, near Chatham

In the first 11 months of 2017, at least five people died in crashes along the 401 between Tilbury and London.

The province announced in February 2018 that concrete barriers would be coming, but that high-tension cable barriers will be installed for the short term.

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Click to play video '24-year-old man dies on Highway 401 after loose tire flies through windshield' 24-year-old man dies on Highway 401 after loose tire flies through windshield
24-year-old man dies on Highway 401 after loose tire flies through windshield – Aug 12, 2020