New Highway 401 rest stop for truckers aims to improve safety along Prescott-Gananoque stretch
BROCKVILLE — Local leaders are cheering the opening of a new rest stop for truckers on Highway 401 near Gananoque.
The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario on Friday announced the opening of a new rest area for commercial vehicles, repurposing a former truck inspection station on the westbound 401 near Gananoque.
“This new rest area will provide a safe place for commercial vehicle drivers to stop and take a break,” ministry officials noted in a media release.
“Rest areas have several road safety benefits including: Helping drivers rest and combat fatigue, providing a space for drivers to inspect their vehicles and providing a safe area that allows drivers to wait out poor weather conditions.”
The Gananoque rest area includes parking spaces for eight long commercial vehicles.
“It’s a welcomed announcement,” Stephen Laskowski, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, said Friday.
“There’s a shortage of rest areas across North America.”
The announcement follows a sustained lobbying effort by local municipal leaders to address safety concerns on the major highway related to transport trucks.
Prescott Mayor Brett Todd, who has led the campaign that calls for the long-term widening of the 401 in this region, welcomed news of the rest stop.
“It is something that has definitely been on my radar for quite some time,” said Todd.
“We need to do more for our truckers.”
Todd praised Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark, who is also municipal affairs minister, and Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek for their work.
“This is a really proactive step,” said Todd
In a prepared statement, Clark said the move reflects his “long-standing commitment to make the Highway 401 corridor in our region safer for all motorists and to ensure the smooth flow of people and products that is critical to our economy.”
United Counties Warden Pat Sayeau also welcomed the decision, while Leeds and the Thousand Islands Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke called this repurposing of unused provincial land “a win-win.”
Local mayors have been pressing the government to widen the 401 to three lanes in both directions from Kingston to the Quebec border following hazardous material spills and collisions involving transport trucks in recent years.
Their concern was sparked by a collision and chemical spill on the 401 near Lansdowne in March 2017 that killed a truck driver and sent 30 people, including first responders, to hospital, and closed the highway for 30 hours.
That lobbying effort, which began under the previous Liberal government, also stressed the need for more places along the 401 for truckers to take rests.
Lack of rest stops has created some friction from residents of Prescott’s north end who complained about truck drivers idling their vehicles in the Ultramar, Canadian Tire and Your Independent Grocer parking areas.
“This announcement will help alleviate that issue,” said Laskowski, who had been communicating with Todd about the matter.
That situation has improved more recently through bylaw enforcement, Todd said Friday, adding it begins with talking to the drivers.
“We don’t want to put the truckers out because that’s a big part of our economy,” added Todd.
However, the fact remains Prescott does not have the space to accommodate those trucks, he said.