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New Interchange At 17 & 34 Soon? Well, It’s Complicated…

In the next few months, as soon as all partners involved have agreed on the final configuration, budgeting and timelines, the Peter J. Kirk* Memorial bridge and interchange project, which has now been delayed for close to two years, might eventually get underway; this interchange is a main north-south and east-west access to Hawkesbury itself, but to the province of Québec via the Long-Sault bridge and to the USA via Cornwall.

This interchange (road and ramps) in is serious need for an upgrade: it is 65 years old and in state of disrepair. Four players have been involved in the discussions and the decision-making: the Ministry of Transportation of the province of Ontario, the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, the city of Hawkesbury and the township of Champlain; as of the latest proposals and arguments by either groups, no solution seems satisfactory and agreeable to all. When contacted last week by Le Régional, mayor Assaly’s office confirmed that discussions haven’t reached a consensus and are presently at a standstill. In summarized terms, local politicians fear the original fiasco encountered at the 417 intersection of Herb’s Travel Plaza (before the installation of traffic lights)  might repeat itself. It also seems there is an environmental issue on the negotiation package. It’s complicated…

Did you know that provincial highway 34, whose official surname is ‘Kings’s Highway 34’ was first established in 1930 as the farthest eastern provincial boundary on a 60 kilometres north-south axis; it did not significantly change until 1998 when a 44 km section south of Highway 417 was transferred to the Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry counties as part of the Harris government cost-cutting measures and thus became a ‘regional’ road; the remaining ‘provincial’ stretch of highway went from Highway 417 to the north, crossing the village of Vankleek Hill up to the Hawkesbury interchange; it extended through the city of Hawkesbury (known in urban areas as a ‘Connecting link’) as McGill street and Le Chenail boulevard before reaching the Long-Sault bridge and the border to Quebec. The township of Champlain recently completed a major overhaul of its High street/Highway 34 portion of the highway (water and sewer lines, sidewalks and street); it didn’t take long before High street was assaulted again by tractor trailers after completion, either northbound to the province of Quebec or southbound to the 417 and 401 connections or to the USA by Cornwall’s Seaway international bridge.

According to Cameron Bevers, author and creator of the site thekingshighway.ca, Ontario’s King’s Highway signs are by far the most ‘majestic signs in North America: Ontario has come a long way from the simple, modest Provincial highway signs of the 1920s. It was in 1925 that Ontario’s Department of Public Highways began numbering its roads: before, they were simply known as ‘the road from … to …’; small triangle-shaped signs were then introduced and the 3000-kilometre provincial highway network was divided into 15 distinct routes (Highways 2 to 17, omitting 1 and 13).  The vast majority of those signs were made of a porcelain enamel surface applied to a steel backing; the sign elements were embossed or stamped into the tin, a very similar process to the one used to produce Ontario’s licence plates, suggesting that they may have been manufactured by the same company.’

*As a footnote, let us remember that in 1968,  Peter J. Kirk, at the young  age of 32, a local OPP officer, was killed while on car patrol in the Champlain township; the township honored his memory in 2016 by dedicating this bridge in his name.

Stay tuned for next week’s column as we will revisit ‘former’ King’s Highway 17! And we may have a fresh update on the interchanging situation on the interchange! But, well, it’s complicated…

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