The Government of Prince Edward Island is seeking federal funding for a new highway project that would redirect the Trans-Canada Highway around the Town of Cornwall, making travel safer and allowing for more business development in the town.
“The Cornwall Perimeter Highway would fulfil a longstanding request by Cornwall residents to re-route the thousands of tractor-trailers and cars that pass through the heart of their town every day while crossing the province,” said Premier Wade MacLauchlan. “This is a strategic infrastructure investment that would bring the highway up to today’s safety standards, improve the transport of goods and benefit all Islanders.”
Member of Parliament for Malpeque, Hon. Wayne Easter, welcomes the project. Easter said, “The Trudeau government’s federal infrastructure program was developed to stimulate the economy and improve infrastructure. The announcement today does both, and provides the public with the information needed for long term community and business development.”
The Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy has applied to the federal New Building Canada Fund for 50 percent funding for the first phase of the project, which would include new roundabouts on the Trans-Canada at the Maypoint intersection and at the Poplar Island (COWS) intersection. Application for the second phase, a six kilometre route running from New Haven to the York Point Road, will be submitted in the coming weeks.
The cost of construction for both phases is estimated to be $65 million, making it one of the largest projects ever undertaken in the province.
With more than 5,000 residents, Cornwall is the fourth largest town in the province. It is home to many young families and three schools which are attended by 1,600 students.
Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar said the route would improve safety on one of the busiest stretches of the Trans Canada Highway. The highway between Maypoint Road and York Point Road sees up to 26,400 vehicles per day, while up to 17, 200 vehicles travel the stretch between York Point Road and Meadowbank Road each day. From 2009 to 2013, there were 159 collisions on the highway between Clyde River and Maypoint Road, although none were fatal.
“The Cornwall Perimeter Highway would be accessed through roundabouts and interchanges, which are much safer than the existing intersections. This would reduce the likelihood of accidents and the severity of collisions,” said Minister Biggar.
The bypass would reduce driving time for people crossing the province and lower greenhouse gas emissions by removing many traffic interruptions. “There would be six fewer traffic lights for drivers approaching Charlottetown from the west. Drivers leaving Borden would not see a traffic signal until they reached Malpeque Road,” Minister Biggar said.
Many new development opportunities would open up within Cornwall if the town’s main road was no longer part of the Trans-Canada Highway. This would make it possible for the town to consider new entrances and streets connecting to the road, without being affected by highway access limits.
Cornwall Mayor Minerva McCourt said the town has long advocated for construction of a perimeter road and that uncertainty over the project has hindered development in the community. “Extremely limited access options on the existing Trans-Canada Highway have restricted development in the town for many years” she said. “We look forward to the development opportunities that would result from this significant improvement to the highway system in and around Cornwall.”
“The Town is hopeful that the commitment shown today from all levels of government will give developers the confidence to move their projects forward and help grow our town,” said Mayor McCourt. “The majority of our residents support this project, with the results of a 2003 plebiscite showing more than 80 percent in favour of a perimeter highway. While there may be some temporary challenges, there is no question that this is in the best long term interests of the town.”
Cornwall is the fourth largest, and one of the fastest growing towns in Prince Edward Island. Incorporated in 1995, it now has a population of more than 5,000 residents. In 2011, the Town of Cornwall had a population of 5,162, representing a percentage change of 10.4 percent from 2006. This compares to the national average growth of 5.9%.
Cornwall is a young community with three schools including Westwood Primary, Eliot River Elementary and East Wiltshire Intermediate. Hundreds of students travel in and out of the community each day, while the Trans Canada Highway and thousands of vehicles still run right through the middle of the town.
In October 2015, the Town of Cornwall endorsed a proposed realignment of the Trans-Canada Highway. The route would be located within a corridor that starts at the York Point Road intersection, continues west around the north side of Cornwall and joins back to the TCH in Clyde River. The bypass would allow easy access to Cornwall and the South Shore, while allowing vehicles bound for Charlottetown and further to take a route around, rather than through the community.
Coming from New Haven, the route would cut across the Baltic Road and Bannockburn Road to Clyde River Road, across Cornwall Road, rejoining the current Trans-Canada through a roundabout at the intersection of Warren Grove Road.
Phase One would include the installation of roundabouts at the Maypoint intersection and at the Poplar Island (COWS) intersection. Work on this phase would begin in the fall of 2016.
Phase Two would include the construction of a six-kilometre route running from New Haven to the York Point Road. Construction would begin in 2017 and end in the fall of 2019.
If the project is approved under the federal New Building Canada Fund, public meetings on the roundabouts would begin in July, and the Environmental Assessment Impact study consultations would follow immediately. Public meetings would be held to gather community input on the proposed route, followed by the detailed design phase and a spring construction start. The final decision on a preferred route would be made after an independent environmental review. The route chosen would have minimal impact on the environment and the least disruption to watercourses and wetlands, forested areas, agricultural land and residential properties. The corridor being proposed is primarily cleared agricultural land with one river crossing but no protected lands or established forests.
The Town has been lobbying for the project for 20 years. With through traffic re-routed around the perimeter, it would be able to consider new entrances and streets connecting to the road, without being affected by highway access limits. For example, it could construct a new entrance into the Terry Fox Sports Complex, which currently only has access through a neighbouring subdivision. When complete, the route would become a Community Connector road, creating more road access to housing and business development.
The safety of Cornwall and Clyde River residents would improve by redirecting heavy truck and commuter traffic onto a limited access road away from children, students, pedestrians and cyclists. With less highway traffic, fewer intersections and more consistent speed limits, Cornwall residents would have easier access to businesses and a much safer community.
One of the largest projects the province has ever undertaken, construction of the Cornwall Bypass would put hundreds of people to work and create substantial economic spin-offs for Island businesses. While some existing businesses may feel the impact in the short term, most will benefit over time as the town grows. The longer terms benefits of a safer community and increased opportunities for housing development would be good for business in Cornwall and Clyde River.
For more information visit the Cornwall Bypass web page at www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/cornwall-perimeter-highway-project