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New Highway 7 seen as big business boost

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce is lauding news that the province has finally committed to start building a new four-lane highway linking Guelph with Kitchener-Waterloo.
“This is very exciting for Guelph,” chamber president Lloyd Longfield said Friday, reacting to the news that the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario plans to start construction on the long-delayed project by 2015.
The new highway, north of the existing two-lane Highway 7, will link the Hanlon Expressway north of Woodlawn Road with the Conestoga Expressway in Kitchener-Waterloo.
For Guelph, the main benefit will be easing the movement of people between the two communities, Longfield said in an interview. “This will give us labour mobility between Guelph and K-W, and that is what we were looking for,” he said.
Guelph has a relatively low unemployment rate and a shortage of skilled trade workers, but the existing, frequently clogged Highway 7 deters unemployed workers from K-W from working in Guelph, he said.
“Kitchener-Waterloo has 20,000 unemployed workers, and we are hoping some of them match the jobs we have in Guelph.”
The Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo chambers worked together to prepare a business case for a new Highway 7, which seems to have influenced the provincial government to make a commitment to get the project going, Longfield said.
The cost of the 18-km divided highway was estimated by an MTO spokesperson in 2007 at $250 million, but the cost will have risen since then.
The project, which has received environmental approval, is meant to reduce traffic congestion, improve safety for drivers and accommodate growth. The province approved the new highway in 2007, but up to now there had been no indication of when construction would start.

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