Executive summary

Eastern Ontario is a thriving region in our province. It is home to the nation’s capital and one of the nation’s most significant trade corridors, popular tourist destinations, and a diverse economy. However, people and businesses in the region today are facing numerous transportation challenges. These challenges range from fighting gridlock on highways in the Ottawa area to accessing more options to travel within and between communities. The regional economy depends on efficient multimodal links, while adapting to rapid changes in technology and increasing climate impacts present a challenge for all areas of our province.

Connecting the East: a draft transportation plan for eastern Ontario contains more than 50 actions to help build a safe, reliable, and connected transportation system that keeps people and goods moving within and across the region. It includes investments to rehabilitate and expand highways, improve transit and intercommunity bus options, support economic development opportunities and ensure that the region’s transportation system is ready for the future.


Individuals, families and businesses across eastern Ontario have access to safe and reliable options within a transportation system that connects local communities, and contributes to the health, well-being and economic prosperity of the entire region.

The actions are organized under five goals to improve transportation in the region:

Goal 1: Connecting people and places

Transportation systems are fundamentally about providing people and businesses with connections to get themselves and products and services to where they need to go safely and as easily and efficiently as possible. We are taking action to expand infrastructure in strategic locations to manage growth, ensuring current facilities and services are well-maintained and improved, and continuing work to identify needs and opportunities. Highlights include expanding Highway 417 to fight gridlock in Ottawa, widening Highway 17 from Arnprior to Renfrew, improving ferry services that are essential for passengers and goods in many communities, and establishing an eastern region task force to support plan implementation and advise on potential improvements and new initiatives.

Goal 2: Supporting a competitive and open for business environment

A reliable, efficient transportation system is critical for the success of a growing and prosperous economy in eastern Ontario. Actions in this area of the plan will help create a competitive business environment by reducing red tape, helping highways that are heavily used for goods movement run more smoothly and exploring opportunities to maximize the potential of the multimodal transportation system including the rail, marine, air and road transport modes. To support the crucial trade corridor along Highway 401, there will be more truck parking and more interchanges compatible with long-combination vehicles (LCVs). A new marine strategy will be developed to help address challenges and opportunities. And the province will continue to collaborate with the goods movement sector to streamline processes, such as the online renewal of commercial vehicle licence plates and adoption of electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track compliance with hours of service requirements.

Goal 3: Providing more choice and convenience

Public engagement during the development of this plan underscored a desire in the region to add more options for travelling between communities and more ways to travel within them. The actions in this section of the plan include investments to provide new intercommunity bus services in 10 communities in eastern Ontario through the Community Transportation Grant Program, including some in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations. Transit and active transportation improvements in 20 eastern municipalities are supported through the dedicated Gas Tax program. The deregulation of the intercommunity bus sector in 2021 will encourage new small businesses to provide additional service routes to complement those offered by established bus companies. The permanent increase of the speed limit on Highway 417 supports faster connections between communities.

Goal 4: Improving safety and inclusion

Making sure the transportation system is safe and reliable for all users is a key priority for this plan. Actions include investments in new, larger, full-colour, bilingual electronic signs at 11 locations that will reduce distractions and will be clearer to read in both English and French. The Ontario 511 service will continue to provide real-time local highway information to keep drivers aware of current conditions, collisions, snow plow locations, construction activities and emergency detour routes. Design and maintenance standards will consider the needs associated with slow-moving farm equipment, as well as ways to manage Wild Parsnip, an invasive species that grows rapidly and blocks sightlines along roads.

Goal 5: Preparing for the future

Technological advances are propelling significant changes in transportation, providing both an economic opportunity and a chance to prepare the region for the arrival of innovative technology like connected and automated vehicles that could transform the way people live, work and move in the province. Actions under this theme include investments in the new Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), along with cutting-edge test sites for new technologies at Area X.O in Ottawa. Other actions include expanding high-speed internet across the region, assessing provincial locations for alternative fueling stations and using the latest climate data to assess risks to infrastructure.

Connecting the East will deliver a better transportation system for the people and communities of eastern Ontario, giving them more options to get where they need to go, when they want to get there. We are committed to working with the federal government, municipalities, states and provinces, Indigenous communities and organizations as well as Francophone residents and organizations, transportation providers, businesses, industry, and academia to ensure the transportation system supports the prosperity of the regional economy and provides a better quality of life for eastern residents and all Ontarians.


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