Highway 6 saved!

MTO blinks first, provides funds for critical culvert fix

ESPANOLA—Great news arrived recently concerning funding for the 40-year-old Black Creek culvert on Highway 6 on the outskirts of the Town of Espanola. The culvert is on a section of the connecting link that is Manitoulin Island’s vital year-round link to Highway 17 and the world beyond.

According to a recent announcement from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) concerning the fund’s application-based component, the Town of Espanola will receive up to $1,316,931 toward the replacement of the Black Creek Culvert.

“We have budgeted 1,466,900 for this project with an additional $150,000 for the adjacent boardwalk known as the Al Secord Fitness Trail,” confirmed Espanola CAO Cynthia Townsend, who added that the town was hoping to finalize the tenders for the addition shortly.

“Investing in essential infrastructure projects not only increases the quality of life in communities across Ontario, but also creates jobs and generates significant economic growth in areas that need it most,” said Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid in a press release announcing the funding. “I’m pleased that we are moving forward with our plan to support small, rural and Northern communities, and we will continue partnering with municipalities across Ontario to make unprecedented infrastructure investments.”

“Roads, bridges and water infrastructure are essential to rural communities across the province,” said Jeff Leal, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “By partnering with communities and investing in these projects, our government is committed to ensuring municipalities have the tools they need to build and maintain critical infrastructure.”

“This is fantastic news not only for Espanola, but all municipalities, First Nations and businesses on Manitoulin and Whitefish River (First Nation) that rely on the connecting link to and from Espanola,” agreed Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha in applauding the announcement. “I know how much work the mayor, council and staff in Espanola have done to get this funding and there has been a lot of lot lobbying and letters of support from all over Manitoulin explaining how important this link is to the Island.”

The issue has been a serious concern for the financially challenged community. Many community members were hard pressed to justify spending their tax dollars on repairs for a road that is used more by other communities and travellers through the region than the community itself. “There was really a lot of confusion in what represented a connecting link and whose responsibility it eventually fell to,” she said.

It is not yet certain what impact the project, which is expected to begin this spring, will have on summer travel to and from Manitoulin Island.

The municipal council had begun to consider half-load restrictions on the Island’s only year-round road link to the rest of Canada as an emergency option, should funding from upper levels of government not become available for the project.