Hwy 5 extension opens in Chelsea, Quebec

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by admin on December 10, 2009

Little pomp for $27 million, 2.5 km extension

First there were some raised eyebrows and confused gestures. Soon there were wide grins, generous waves and enthusiastic thumbs up.

Within minutes of the pylons’ unceremonious removal by Ministry of Transport (MTQ) workers Dec. 4, drivers were entering and exiting Hwy 5′s extension to Meech Creek in Chelsea, Quebec as though they had been doing it all their lives.

Two MTQ workers remove pylons from the Hwy 5 extension in Chelsea, Quebec Dec. 4. Mark Burgess photo

Two MTQ workers remove pylons from the Hwy 5 extension in Chelsea, Quebec Dec. 4. Mark Burgess photo

After two years and $27 million, the opening was surprisingly free of pomp and ceremony for a government that typically hasn’t been shy about puffing its chest over infrastructure investments – no Prime Minister and Premier observing the work in construction helmets as we saw in August; no member of parliament or national assembly with scissors and white smiles.

Instead, 2.5 kilometres of new highway just opened without warning. MTQ workers stayed on after they’d moved the barricades at the Meech Creek entry, to stand on Hwy 105 like bullfighters and wave the oncoming traffic onto the new section.

In a press release, Pontiac MP Lawrence Cannon said completing the highway will improve road safety by decreasing traffic on Hwy 105 and would promote growth and tourism.

MNA Stephanie Vallee said the expanded highway is a response to requests from residents and municipalities.

“Once the three sections are complete, this highway will become a vital artery that will ensure a rapid link between the municipalities of Les Collines-de-l’Outaouais and Gatineau, and access to La Vallee-de-la-Gatineau will also be greatly improved,” she said in the same press release.

The next phase of expansion, due to start this winter, will extend 6.5 kilometres from Meech Creek to Wakefield. Its estimated cost is $115 million and it’s scheduled to be completed in 2012. The third phase adds another kilometre to Hwy 5 north of Wakefield, bypassing the windy, dangerous stretch of Hwy 105.

The new Chelsea stretch features two overpasses at Tulip Valley, the interchange at Meech Creek and various colours of blasted rock in between.

Wakefield Mill owner and Commerce Wakefield President Bob Milling welcomed the new section, saying it would be good for local business.

“Wakefield is a little bit closer now,” he said.