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Atlantic Gateway given too much ‘green’ for greenfield projects: APTA

DIEPPE, N. B. -The Atlantic Gateway initiative is poised to put Canada's four Atlantic provinces back on the North American radar as a desirable hub for trade, but the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Asso...

DIEPPE, N. B. -The Atlantic Gateway initiative is poised to put Canada’s four Atlantic provinces back on the North American radar as a desirable hub for trade, but the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) is questioning the allocation of the plan’s funding.

Peter Nelson, executive director of the APTA, which has been consulting with the four Atlantic provinces’ departments of transportation concerning the Gateway project, says too much funding is being given to greenfield projects (projects that must be started from the ground up) instead of focusing on making adjustments to the region’s existing infrastructure.

“It’s creating more confrontation within the region rather than building on our strengths,” Nelson says.

“When they came out and said they were going to commit to more greenfield projects, people said, ‘Well, wait a minute; how does that benefit the region if you’re creating more competition?’ Instead of being one strong region, they’re just going to keep watering it down. We’ll have ports all over the place that we can’t fill up.”

As a “twin” of the successful Asia Pacific Gateway, the goal of the Atlantic Gateway is to combine the issues of ocean-based transportation, port development and infrastructure, and inter-modal rail and trucking to create a strategic, integrated and globally competitive transportation system, facilitating the movement of international commerce on North America’s East Coast.

Ports in Canso-Cape Breton,

N. B., Beldoon in Northeastern

N. S., and Argentia on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, just south of St. John’s are the newer ports which qualify for Gateway money, whereas old ports, like those in Halifax, St. John’s and Saint John, have been left high and dry, according to Nelson. He says that this method of allocation is seemingly redundant because the existing ports are under-capacity as is.

This is in contrast to the Asia Pacific Gateway which was created because the Port of Vancouver

was beyond capacity.

“The Port of Halifax is nowhere near capacity and that’s the downside to all this. What we really need in order to get Halifax back up to where it should be is (to create) better transportation routes linking us to Central Canada and/or the Central US,” Nelson says.

Though the direction of the Atlantic Gateway has not been solidified yet, certain projects have been mentioned as candidates for funding, including the twinning of the Trans-Canada highway between Glasgow and Canso, N. S.

From a trucking perspective, the APTA has a number of hopes for the Gateway project, with goals both tangible and intangible.

For starters, Nelson says they’d like to see Hwy. 185 completed between Edmundston and Riviere-Du-Loup. He’d also like to see more money spent on studies for things like long-combination vehicles, to help the Maritimes stay competitive.

“We want to continue to be involved in the discussions and hopefully our input will help (decide) the direction that money goes (in),” he says.

Nelson also hopes that some of the money can be allocated to lobbying issues, like softening up the border.

But Nelson says it’s about more than just bricks and mortar. The north-south paradigm, adequately addressed by the Atlantica project, is almost absent from Gateway which follows a more east-west path.

“We want to see both in terms of Gateway and Atlantica. We want to see those routes opened up to us.” However, Nelson admits that the two projects can work together in this way, since all pathways would be intersecting in New Brunswick.

“You could look at (Gateway) as almost being in competition with Atlantica, but not. Atlantica is driven by the private sector (groups like the Atlantic Institute for Marketing Studies) and Gateway is driven by the public sector (the federal and provincial governments),” Nelson says. He calls Atlantica and the Gateway projects “parallel paths” that will likely converge, adding that he hopes Gateway will handle the infrastructure component that’s currently lacking in Atlantica’s plans.

To date, the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, have only signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the development of the Atlantic Gateway, which provides the framework for collaboration between Canada and the Atlantic provinces.

There have been no specific goals or a timeline set up for the Gateway as of yet, since the project is still in its infancy.

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