On Aug. 7, 2002, Kelly Henderson and her twin 12-year-old sons, Jordin and Corbin Sauve, lost their lives on Highway 69.
The family was returning home to Sudbury just after 7 p.m., when an oncoming transport truck crossed the centre line at the s-curve just south of the Killarney turnoff, and slammed into their small car.
Ten years and one day after the collision, on Aug. 8, a 13-kilometre section of four-lane highway stretching between Estaire and the Killarney turnoff (Highway 637) will open to traffic.
The s-curve area where the family died is just south of the newly four-laned area. It was bypassed some time ago, although it's only open to two lanes while construction is ongoing.
The $68.2-million project, awarded to the construction company Aecon, included the construction of Ontario's first overhead wildlife crossing bridge, which is expected to reduce animal-vehicle collisions.
Kelly Henderson's brother, Ron Henderson, was on hand at an Aug. 3 press conference, officially celebrating the completion of the section of highway.
He explained how his family members' deaths led to lobby efforts to get the province to four-lane Highway 69, something which wasn't even being considered at the time.
“At the funeral, I met an enraged (Sudbury MPP) Rick Bartolucci, who basically told me then he was sick and tired of going to funerals for family members and losing loved ones on northern highways, particularly on Highway 69,” Henderson told those at the press conference.
“He told me he was going to set up a lobby group, which we ended up calling Crash 69, to lobby the government of the day to four-lane 69.”
The project won't bring back his family members, but Henderson said it's still “gratifying” to know thousands of families are able to travel on the highway more safely.
Bartolucci said he's glad to see the completion of this particular portion of the highway, as many lives have been lost there. Beyond the increased safety for those travelling on the highway, though, the four-laning will bring economic opportunities to the city, he said.
“The economic opportunities that are presented when you have modern infrastructure are enormous,” Bartolucci said.
“We're already seeing very, very tangible signs of confidence that people have in Sudbury for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is modern infrastructure that the province of Ontario is investing in.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird joined the MPP for the press conference, which was held on top of the new Killarney turnoff overpass.
This stretch of highway was jointly funded by the provincial and federal governments, with the feds picking up slightly more than half the cost.
“This is an important project,” Baird said.
“There's been so much talk over the years about getting this done. There's so many huge, competing priorities, not only in the province of Ontario, but from coast to coast to coast, for highway construction.
“The government of Canada, (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper and our team are very thrilled to be a partner to help make this happen.”
When work on four-laning the highway to Sudbury began in 2004, construction was projected to last until 2017. Although the project has hit snags involving environmental assessments, Bartolucci insists the four-laning is still on track to meet that deadline.
Last year, the federal and provincial governments came to an agreement to streamline the environmental assessment process, which has smoothed the way for construction, he said. Bartolucci said this latest section of the highway was only four months behind schedule.
The price tag for the entire project was originally $1.5 billion, but the MPP said it's definitely going to be higher than that, given the effects of inflation. The province has already spent $521 million on the project.
Bartolucci said there's only 80 kilometres of road left to four-lane. The next section of the highway which will be four-laned is north and south of the Murdock River.
The construction company Terra North won the contract to build half of the stretch of road, while Bot Construction won the contract for the other half.
Posted by Arron Pickard