The future of Route 117, a priority in Abitibi-Est | Elections Quebec 2022

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The future of Route 117, a priority in Abitibi-Est | ÉQuebec 2022 elections

With more than 10,000 vehicles that use certain sections every day, Route 117 has become a source of frustration and concern for its users.

Several people are calling for the addition of passing lanes on Route 117 between Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d' Gold, but also in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve. (archives)

Route 117 is an issue in the election campaign in the county of Abitibi-Est.

Targeted by the Conference of Prefects of Abitibi-Témiscamingue as a priority file for more than three years, this road has been entitled to certain adjustments, but not yet to an overall plan on its future.

“This is critical to our economy and our security. The accident statistics are worrying and this road no longer meets the needs of the community. »

— Martin Ferron, Mayor of Malartic and Prefect of the MRC Vallée-de-l’Or

We are not asking for a four-lane highway, but we must at least make sure that what we have remains functional. This is the case for many of our routes in the region. We are experiencing a major deficit in our infrastructure. Yes, it will take significant investments and we will have to mobilize to be heard, because the regions are too often neglected, he continues.

Sections of Route 117 are considered dangerous by elected officials and motorists. (archives)

The Val-d'Or Chamber of Commerce believes that the Route 117 file should be given priority as a whole, since it is the gateway to the region.

For the transport needs of companies, to bring in workers and for the attractiveness of the region, it is certain that the safety and fluidity of the 117 must be a priority. This is true between Val-d’Or and Rouyn-Noranda, but also towards the Laurentians. There are several problematic sections. It goes beyond a few passing lanes. Also, the rest area file has been dragging on for a few years and it must be settled, says President Valérie Gourde.

The mayor of Val-d'Or, Céline Brindamour, believes that the projects set in motion by Quebec will make it possible to see solutions for the 117. But she says she is annoyed by the many delays, such as those experienced for the expansion of the roundabout on Route 111 in Sullivan.

Major work on the roundabout in Sullivan is scheduled for 2023. (archive)

It has already been postponed twice and the situation is hellish during rush hour, she recalls. It has to take off in 2023. For the 117, we have always hoped that it would be an ambitious project. But when you look at things going across Quebec for all the projects of the Ministry of Transport, it seems difficult. To hope that it all of a sudden takes off, I must confess that I do not really have that hope, but I could be pleasantly surprised.

If all the candidates in Abitibi-Est agree on the need to invest in Route 117, Liberal Jean-Maurice Matte also advances the need to reduce the number of users there.

Jean-Maurice Matte hopes to be able to provide solutions in the county.

A study by the UMQ estimates that road transport on the 117 generates social costs of $82 million per year, related to maintenance, pollution, delays or even material damage from accidents, specifies- he. We must work to convert some heavy traffic to rail. I want to work on setting up a transshipment center that would relieve the 117 of part of the transport of goods. It's nice to announce a project office, but we don't have a project. We must not just see the problem, but bring solutions.

The candidate of Québec solidaire, Benjamin Gingras, for his part, sees the development of public transport as part of the solution .

We cannot accept that the safety of the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue be relegated to the background, that it is not an active priority, he maintains. But our approach will be different. Yes, we have to invest and the MTQ is working on it, but it takes a global vision that also involves increasing the supply of public transport. It is not normal that it takes two nights to make a round trip by bus between Senneterre and Rouyn-Noranda. Public transit must be put forward in the region.

Pierre Dufour at a press conference in Val-d'Or in March 2022.

Pierre Dufour had made 117 a priority in 2018 and he reiterates that a project will be tabled and supported by a CAQ government in a possible next mandate.

There were milestones to put in place for this type of major project, he explains. Just between Malartic and Val-d'Or, we have 264 course entries to take into account. Does the solution go through a new route? Should land be expropriated? It is not easy and it leads to delays. With the hiring of a director of the project office for the 117, we now have a captain on board. This is a file that has been escaped in the past. Now, it will take money and it is by registering it [on the] infrastructure plan that we will ensure that it does not go around in circles.

Jacline Rouleau wants more safety on the 117, but also on route 113 which connects Louvicourt to Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

It's problematic, especially between Val-d'Or and Rouyn-Noranda, recognizes the Parti Québécois candidate. There is some catching up to do. The request has been made to the MTQ for a long time for overtaking lanes. But there is not just the 117, there is also the 113, where I have been asking for years for widening to allow cyclists to be safe. As mayor, we have been asking for it since 2009.

The leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec, Éric Duhaime, with his candidate in Abitibi-Est, Maxym Perron-Tellier.

Conservative candidate Maxym Perron-Tellier believes that Quebec must focus on settling more dangerous areas on the 117, but also to improve the quality of the work that is done there.

We have one of the fairly deadly roads in Quebec, he underlines. We must see to adding overtaking zones, because maneuvers on double lines create problematic situations. But we also need to change the way we finance our roads. Instead of always going to the lowest bidder, we have to go with value for money, so that our roads last longer like in Ontario.

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