Ontario's provincial election campaign is in full swing and Thunder Bay Liberal party candidates and cabinet ministers announced the Liberal party's northern platform on May 11th. A key highlight of the plan was to completely four-lane the Trans-Canada Highway throughout the province from the Manitoba border to the Quebec border. As we all know, after years of lobbying going back to the 1980s and early 1990s, four-laning of northern Ontario highways finally commenced and has been underway for a number of years in two key areas - Thunder Bay to Nipigon as well as from Sudbury to Parry Sound. So, my question is - if we want to completely four-lane the Trans-Canada Highway, how long will it take to fully four-lane the Trans-Canada in northern Ontario?
So here is a quick back of the envelope estimate. Let us assume only the "southern" route will be completely four-laned. This is a 1,628 km stretch (based on Google maps) going from Kenora to Parry sound via Thunder Bay-Nipigon-Marathon-the Sault-Sudbury and Parry Sound. The stretch from Thunder Bay to Nipigon is about 109 km long with the commitment to four-laning announced in 2009. As of spring 2018, 30.2 km has been completed and another 19.5 km are underway. Based on the 30.2 km completed to date and a nine year completion date, we are looking at 3.3 km a year. If we want to be charitable and include the 19.5 km underway, then we are looking at about 50 km over 9 years or approximately 5.5 km per year as the highway completion rate.
The stretch from Sudbury to Parry Sound - part of the old Highway 69 - is 173 km long (again using Google maps). The provincial government announced the four-laning of Highway 69 in 2001 and to date 70 km from Parry Sound south to Port Severn have been completed and about 70 km from Parry Sound north to Sudbury is either complete or underway with the aim to be done by 2021. This still leaves quite a bit of highway to be started and apparently the remainder is in the engineering and property acquisition phase. So, based on the total of 140 km completed (including Port Severn to Parry Sound) since 2001 with completion scheduled for 2021, this means 140 km over 20 years or 7 km per year. The pace of northern Ontario highway four-laning is a little faster south of Sudbury.
So, take the total distance of 1,628 km and subtract what is underway or completed and you have about 1,438 km left to go. Let's make it a nice 1,400 km left as there already is some four-laned highway near the Sault and Kenora also. If we average the Thunder Bay-Nipigon and Highway 69 four-laning speeds, we get 6.25 km per year as the pace of highway four-laning in northern Ontario. At this pace, it will take 224 years to completely four-lane the remainder of the southern route from Kenora to Parry Sound bringing us to the year 2242. This as many of you should know is about 20 years before the events of Star Trek the original series which is supposed to take place between the years 2265 and 2269.
Needless to say, its going to be a long road, getting from there to here. Saying you are going to need faith of the heart to get there is probably an understatement.