KITCHENER -- It’s been a long time coming, but a project that would improve the connection between Kitchener and Guelph is officially on the province’s payroll.

In a virtual call on Wednesday morning, officials announced that the provincial government has committed to funding the Highway 7 expansion project.

“The new Highway 7 will connect a fast growing urban centre of Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph, and provide relief to the heavily travelled 401,” said Mike Harris, MPP of Kitchener-Conestoga during the call.

The proposed 18-kilometre expansion would include seven interchanges, including a connection between Highway 7 and Highway 85, and a new crossing over the Grand River.

“Everyone in Waterloo Region knows how vital the construction of the new Highway 7 is for the innovation corridor and connecting the communities of Waterloo Region and Guelph,” added Regional Chair Karen Redman.

Procurement could begin sometime next year, but there was no official construction timeline released on Wednesday.

“Since it was considered back in the 1960s there have been frequent promises made over the decade about building this highway,” said Wellington County Warden Kelly Linton during the meeting.

Millions of dollars have already been spent preparing for the project, including the reconstruction of the Victoria Street bridge.

“We are investing in these critical infrastructure projects to drive economic growth and create jobs during these extremely difficult times," Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney was quoted in a news release.

The expansion is part of $2.6 billion in provincial funding allocated to expand and repair Ontario’s highways and bridges, but the exact cost of the project is being kept quiet for now.

Officials say that the project value will be available once the contract is awarded to a successful bidder.