COLUMN: Four-lane the 138

Highway 138 is in need of changes to improve the safety for those who use it and live around it. The best way to improve the highway is to complete it as a four-lane highway.

The highway was planned by the Ministry of Transportation to be a connector between Highway 401 and Highway 417, and the Seaway bridge. While the international traffic envisioned has never materialized, the commuter traffic between Cornwall and Ottawa has.

Cornwall, and the parts of South and North Stormont along the 138, have become commuter havens for people working in the east end of Ottawa. The road is a harrowing drive for many. Windswept in the northern half with open fields. Hilly with poor visibility in the southern half. In the best conditions the road is a challenge. Some of that is due to stupid drivers. While the speed limit for the road is 80 kilometers per hour, few drive that speed. Passing opportunities are poor in many places as well. Enforcement helps but the police cannot monitor the road 24/7.

A roundabout at Headline Road, as reported at Monday night’s city council meeting in Cornwall, is possible. Passing lanes are also proposed along certain stretches of the highway. The consultant who spoke Monday said the St. Andrews bypass and twinning the highway are off the books. Why?

There have been plans and campaign promises for decades to bypass St. Andrews West. That would fix some of the issues, especially in the village proper.

Twinning the highway is the best idea floated and it has been talked of since the connection to the 417 opened in the 1970’s. A rebuilt, realigned, four-lane highway connecting the 417 and 401 would be a benefit to the area. And it would be safer.

In the 1970’s, Highway 16 was realigned between Prescott and Ottawa, with the eventual plan to four-lane the highway. That plan finally was completed in 1998 with the opening of Highway 416. Highway 16 was a dangerous road, with many of the same driving challenges that those who use the 138 face. Since opening, usage is up and accidents are down. The road is safer.

There has been no decline in activities along the 416 either, only growth. What? Growth along a highway? There has been an economic boom along the highway since opening. Kemptville has become a bedroom community to western Ottawa growing hand-over-fist every year. With an expanded and rebuilt 138, there is no reason that growth cannot come to central SD&G and Cornwall as well. Plus the highway would be safer.

Yes we are in the electric car, eco-babble era that our current premier likes to espouse. And yes, we are in the eastern part of the province, where taxpayers are nothing but revenue tools to fund projects in big cities. A rebuilt, four-lane Highway 138 is a benefit to the whole region including Ottawa.

The traffic numbers and accident numbers show there is a need. An upgrade in infrastructure for Highway 138 needs to be a full-on rebuild into a four-lane highway. Forget about roundabouts, passing lanes and speed traps. Quit wasting money on studies, focus groups and public meetings. Put a shovel in the ground, and rebuild the highway. It will be safer and be a benefit to Cornwall and the SD&G region.

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