Ministry approves Morriston bypass; construction expected to begin in 2019

It’s been a long road, but Morriston will finally be getting its Highway 6 bypass.

On March 29 Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca announced the province is moving forward with plans to improve traffic flow on Highway 6 between Freelton and Guelph.

The government says the project will create jobs and reduce congestion.

The project includes a new five-kilometre route that bypasses the community of Morriston and provides an improved connection to Highway 401 and the Hanlon Expressway in Guelph.

Highway 401 will be widened from six to 10 lanes and include future high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The project will also include construction of three new interchanges with improvements made to Highway 401 and existing Highway 6 interchanges, 11 new structures and construction of a local connection road.

Puslinch Mayor Dennis Lever was pleased to have Del Duca, Guelph MPP and Minister of Education Liz Sandals, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ted McMeekin and Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott on hand to make the announcement.

In the audience was Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, along with other township, city and Wellington County representatives.

Del Duca noted it was not that many months ago he toured the area, thanks to the Morriston bypass coalition, plus Lever and others.

“I find in the two years in which I have served as Minister of Transportation, it often helps to touch and see circumstances communities are facing,” said Del Duca.

He added he appreciates the support of his colleagues in the House and the leadership demonstrated that positively impacts this part of Ontario.

“It certainly made my job easier around the cabinet table and the government caucus room to get the support needed to get projects like this moving forward,” he said.

2016 04 01 Hwy 6 Morriston

For a full size .pdf of the intended route click here

A busy road

Del Duca thanked those involved “for their patience and for being relentless with your advocacy.” He added “as you all well know, this section of rural highway is one of the busiest two-lane highways in Ontario.”

Currently more than 25,000 vehicles, including close to 3,000 commercial vehicles, travel through Morriston every day.

“A new highway is needed to help improve safety and manage traffic volume,” Del Duca said.

He added he is pleased to announce the government “will be moving forward with the realignment of Highway 6 between Freelton and Guelph to bypass the community of Morriston and improve connections to Highway 401 and the Hanlon Expressway/Highway 6.”

Del Duca, whose announcement drew a round of applause from those gathered, explained the project “will help improve this vital transportation corridor between the urban centres of Hamilton and Guelph.”

The new corridor will support economic growth in the area by helping to move people and goods within southwestern and central Ontario, he added.

“We are targeting construction to start as early as 2019,” he said.

But before that happens, extensive work will be needed. Del Duca said during that time, the province will also work with the community to continue to promote safety along Highway 6.

A ‘big step’

“The Township of Puslinch is very pleased with today’s announcement and the commitment to move this project forward,” said Lever.

“The Highway 6 Morriston bypass project has been in the works for over 30 years. The traffic bottleneck puts the safety of our residents at great risk. Highway 6 is a key economic corridor connecting the 401 to the Hamilton/Niagara region, as well as to the U.S. border.”

Lever continued, “On behalf of the Township of Puslinch, I would like to personally thank Ted Arnott, the County of Wellington Economic Development Department and the members of the Morriston Coalition for their tireless efforts,” said Lever.

“The Morriston Highway 6 bypass project would not have been possible without the enormous collaboration of many parties.”

Lever continued, “This has been a long time in coming, and today we have taken this important step.”

In later discussion with the Advertiser, Lever said “I’m glad we finally got here. It’s been a long time in the making.”

When first elected five years ago, pushing the bypass project forward was one of Lever’s goals.

“It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people … and real commitment by the province and this minister to do something,” said Lever.

Economic corridor

“It’s been a long road … to get this road,” Arnott said at the announcement on Tuesday.

“While we are still not there just yet, this is a significant step forward.”

He added, “This is great News for our riding. The Morriston bypass will improve safety for our residents in Puslinch, and it will have economic benefits for a large portion of the province.”

He thanked the ministers involved as well as MPPs on both sides of the House who offered their support.

“The Highway 6 corridor is an important economic corridor which links Wellington County and the 401 to the Hamilton/Niagara Region, as well as to the American border,” Arnott said. “There is currently a bottleneck through the community of Morriston, with traffic jams that often extend for several kilometres.”

The project will realign Highway 6 south of the 401 to bypass the congested two-lane section through Morriston and provide an improved connection to the 401 and the Hanlon Expressway in Guelph.

Arnott has pushed for the project for many years, working with Puslinch Township and other area partners.

He also raised the need for the Morriston bypass in the Ontario Legislature countless times and repeatedly wrote and spoke to successive Ministers of Transportation to press the case.

He noted at the announcement, “It has been some considerable years since we’ve had three provincial cabinet ministers visit Wellington-Halton Hills, all at the same time.

“I believe we have an obligation to reach across the aisle and be prepared to work cooperatively with members of other political parties in order to get things done for the people of Wellington-Halton Hills,” said Arnott.

“While we may be adversaries at election time, between elections when I look across the floor of the Legislature I do not see personal enemies, I see MPPs, elected just as I am by the people of their ridings.”

Bypass support

Wellington County Warden George Bridge stated in a press release the county “is pleased that the government of Ontario has decided to invest in the Highway 6 Morriston bypass.”

He added, “This investment will have a very positive economic impact on all of Wellington County and the region.”

There has been long widespread support for the Highway 6 Morriston bypass.

In 2014, Arnott tabled a private member’s resolution calling attention to the need for the Morriston bypass. The County of Wellington, the City of Guelph, and the City of Hamilton have all supported the bypass.

In 2013, the Morriston Coalition was formed by Mayor Lever, Jana Burns, the Director of Economic Development for the county, and Rory McAlpine, senior vice president, government and industry relations with Maple Leaf Foods.

Other members include the Guelph and Hamilton Chambers of Commerce, Tim Hortons, Nestlé Waters, Canada Bread and Cargill.

‘Team effort’

Longtime bypass proponent Bill Knetsch called this week’s announcement the culmination of “a complete team effort.”

“This involved so many people for so many years who have worked so hard to get this accomplished. My hat goes off to every one of them,” said Knetsch, who considered the announcement a huge win for the community.

“Our village will actually become a village one more time … instead of a major artery for Ontario (traffic). We can reclaim Morriston as a hamlet. That is a big thing for us.”

He thanked Del Duca for his commitment and the Ministry of Transportation in general, adding, “We were able to create some amazing things.”

Economic impact

Sandals added “everyone is delighted we finally, after many, many years … even decades … that we are going forward with this wonderful project.”

She focussed on the benefits of a direct connection of Highway 6 north and 6 south.

For Guelph, Sandals said the obvious impact will be for people commuting between Guelph and Hamilton.

“But it also has a huge economic impact in Guelph and also in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge because those producing goods in our area and wanting to ship south to Hamilton and beyond … this is a huge deal.”

Sandals added, “Morriston has been the bottleneck in the transportation network around here. Getting this project means we will be getting rid of the bottleneck from the north south corridor for all the businesses in our part of the world.”

While this is referred to as the Hamilton-Guelph corridor, Sandals said this is also a north-south corridor for the Waterloo Region.

‘Good News’

While McMeekin is Minister of Municipal Affairs, he also serves as MPP for the riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale (adjacent to the southern Puslinch boundary). He said numerous business chambers advocated for the bypass.

“It has tremendous economic spin-offs for industries throughout the area. For those who move people, products or services, this is going to make things a lot easier,” McMeekin said.

“This is really good News and I am pleased to be part of that. There was a shared sense of purpose to make something happen here. I think this is exciting.”

About Arnott, McMeekin said, “Ted is one of the clear thinkers on the other side of the House. He is here after years of effort and he deserves a round of applause.”

Quick facts

Ontario’s population is expected to increase by approximately 40 per cent by 2041, placing additional importance on having modern infrastructure.

The two-lane section of Highway 6, between Freelton and Guelph, is one of the busiest two-lane provincial highways in Ontario.

Currently, more than 25,000 vehicles, including 2,800 commercial vehicles, travel through the Morriston every day.