LEAMINGTON, ONT. -- The provincial government’s new regional transportation plan includes Highway 3.

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announced Friday that the government is releasing its first draft plan to build a better transportation system that will connect individuals, families and businesses in southwestern Ontario.

One of the priorities listed in the plan is the widening Highway 3 to four lanes from Essex to Leamington.

Residents and politicians have lobbied for the provincial government to finish the widening of the highway from two to four lanes since the first phase was completed.

"People in southwestern Ontario deserve access to a safe and reliable transportation network that gets them to where they need to go," said Mulroney. "Our plan for southwestern Ontario includes real, practical transportation improvements that will connect our cities, towns, villages and hamlets by improving our roads and highways, improving accessibility, and ensuring bus, rail and local transit services are as seamless as possible."

Mulroney announced the Highway 3 widening from two lanes to four on Aug. 12, 2019. At the time, the province said the work is not expected to begin until 2021.

Taras Natyshak, NDP MPP for Essex, is demanding action.

“You can’t widen a dangerous highway with re-announcements,” said Natyshak. “Essex County drivers were fed a steady diet of promises and announcements on the widening of Highway 3 from the Liberals, and now we’re getting more of the same from Doug Ford.”

Natyshak added the people of Essex County “deserve funding, timelines, and shovels in the ground, not more draft reports.”

Ontario's plan, Connecting the Southwest, contains more than 40 advancements and strategies, including options for improvements to existing rail corridors and private-sector partnerships to optimize passenger and freight rail.

The province wants to gather feedback from the public and explore strategies to implement actions in the plan. Ontarians can take part in an online survey until March 17, 2020.

Connecting the Southwest is a living document that will evolve throughout the consultations and as new and innovative technology advances.