Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s pleased to see construction work finally begin to twin Highway 17 between Kenora and the Ontario/Manitoba border.

“It’s fantastic news. I’ve driven that highway numerous times. It’s scary as heck – not to mention in the summer, but in the winter - it’s terrifying,” said Ford, in an interview with Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow earlier this week.

So far, preliminary tree clearing work has begun between the border and the junction of Highway 673 in Phase one, and crews from Shoal Lake #39 First Nation are about two to three kilometres deep into their work.

Phase one of the work is set for the 6.5 kilometre stretch from the Ontario / Manitoba border to the junction of Highway 673. Phase two of the work includes the stretch between Highway 673 and Rush Bay Road, and phase three is between Rush Bay and Highway 17A into Kenora.

“As far as I’m concerned, all the governments ignored this for years. We’re not ignoring this,” adds Ford. “And it was the great leadership of Greg Rickford, who just kept hammering on this to cabinet, and we said it was essential. So thank goodness we’re getting shovels in the ground, and we’re going to twin Highway 17. That’s really exciting.”

The $100 million project to twin Highway 17 was announced in 2009 by Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford when he was a federal MP for the Kenora riding, as well as then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty. The funds were later spent on a twinning project near Thunder Bay in 2017.

Chiefs and councillors from the Four Winds Partnership, which includes Washagamis Bay, Wauzhushk Onigum, Shoal Lake #40 and Dalles, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the province to move forward with the twinning work in February 2020, after forming the partnership in 2018.

The Four Winds partnership has yet to give consent to Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the twinning project. If all approvals move forward, the Ministry of Transportation says the highway could be fully twinned by 2025.