The city and federal government are each expected to provide money for the remaining two-thirds of the project. The city already committed its share, and the federal government recently announced a 10-year, $14 billion infrastructure fund, and major road building projects are eligible for support. However, even assuming federal money is made available, combined funding from the three sources totals about $81 million.
That's roughly $45 million to $50 million short of what's needed to complete the full Maley extension. In the planning stages since the 1980s, the project would complete the road ring around the city, meaning traffic –especially heavy trucks – would be able to bypass downtown and other residential and commercial areas.
The entire project would widen Maley Drive to four lanes, from the Falconbridge Highway to Barrydowne Road. Then a new road would connect to Maley to College Boreal at the Lasalle Extension, which would also be widened to four lanes until it links up with Municipal Road 35, leading to Azilda.
Fully completed, the extension would divert about 10,000 vehicles a day from The Kingsway and Lasalle Boulevard, as well as significantly reduce the wear and tear heavy industrial trucks inflict on local roads.
Cecutti said the road ring around the city could be completed even with the partial funding, but four-laning the entire stretch would have to be completed later.
“The full benefit as defined in the (environmental assessment) won't be realized until there's four lanes along the entire length of the road,” he said. “However, that doesn't mean we wouldn't be able to divert a substantial amount of truck traffic in the initial phases.”
While it would be less attractive to residential traffic, even a scaled back Maley would appeal to heavy trucks, he said, since it would be a much better option than driving through the heart of the city.
“I think we'll still get tremendous benefit,” Cecutti said. “The heavy industrial truck traffic is going to want to go there. It will be an easier route will less traffic (signals). They won't be competing with domestic traffic by commercial areas like malls that tends to slow traffic down.”
He expects trucks to choose Maley as a preferred route as soon as its available, and since some sections will still be four lanes even in the initial phase, Cecutti expects a lot of commuter traffic will prefer it, as well.
“But if it's not fully four lanes, we'll miss some opportunities to divert traffic that would otherwise use it if it were fully four lanes.”
The project is designed to accommodate future residential growth, and the key will be to upgrade and expand the roadway as residential development requires. Otherwise, Cecutti said familiar problems will arise.
“We need to be sure we keep pace with expanding it to match growth, or there will still be congestion on some of the other arteries,” he said.
Two environmental assessments have already been completed for Maley, Cecutti said, although the current one may need updating by the time construction begins.
“We're excited that the province announced that it was staying in the budget,” he said. “I think it shows the province realizes there's benefits to (Maley) beyond just our community. They recognize that it's important to sustaining jobs and the economy.
“We're having discussions now with the province to see what exactly that means, and what programs will be put in place.
“It's too early at this stage for provincial staff to know of what it's going to mean ... but we've opened a dialogue now and we're looking forward to advancing that discussion with them, and also with the federal government.”