The Black Road Connecting Link project will not go ahead as projected.
This project which is mostly funded by the province was not successful mainly because there were other projects in the area that needed much more attention.
The Connecting Link program assists communities with up to the lesser of 90 per cent or $3-Million for capital works on roads within municipalities that are provincial highways.
Sault Ste. Marie has the most Connecting Links of the 77 municipalities; a full 24.5km or 7 per cent of the 352 km provincial total. The Connecting Link program allocation has risen from $15-Million to $30-Million over the last three years. It is evident that the city’s share would average $2.1-Million annually.
The province reinstated the program in 2016 after cancelling it for three years. In 2016, the city applied to the program to widen Black Road between McNabb Street and Second Line and the application was not approved.
MTO cited an eligibility problem in that the widening was required due to an increase in local traffic.
The city responded that it was not proper for the province to be first in line for capacity of a road it does not own. In the interim, the MTO reconsidered its eligibility criteria and the project became eligible. Staff recommended, and council endorsed the project as the 2018 candidate for funding.
On March 14th, 2018, the Regional Director advised that the project was not approved. Staff have been advised by MTO that the reason is that it did not rate as high for technical need as other projects. When asked to elaborate, MTO staff responded that “the technical needs are lower in Sault Ste. Marie than that of other municipalities. The needs of all of our Connecting Links applications are high…the pavement condition in Timmins and Espanola are rated poor and the bridge in Blind River requires rehabilitation and these were the top priorities. The pavement condition for your application is in relatively good shape when compared to that of Timmins and Espanola. With the traffic volumes you indicate on the application, the expansion from two lanes to four lanes is warranted and we encourage you to apply for the next intake of Connecting Link funding.”
City staff is seeking the opinion of MTO staff on whether the city should apply for resurfacing Trunk Road instead of Black Road, if pavement condition is deemed the more critical need.