WINDSOR, Ont. - Some nasty anonymous comments made on the CB may be raising tensions between truckers and local police along an already-hectic road in Windsor, Ont.City police Const. Mike Gallant, 30,...
WINDSOR, Ont. – Some nasty anonymous comments made on the CB may be raising tensions between truckers and local police along an already-hectic road in Windsor, Ont.
City police Const. Mike Gallant, 30, had just issued a ticket to a trucker on Huron Church Rd. on Feb. 9 when he was struck by a passing car. Fortunately, Gallant managed to jump out of the direct path of the vehicle, driven by 33-year-old Elizabeth Strnisa, and sustained only minor cuts and bruises and an injured knee. (Strnisa was trying to pass another truck and was unable to see him. She was later charged with careless driving.)
But afterward, Windsor police overheard several truckers making insensitive remarks over the CB. According to Windsor police, the truckers were heard to say, “That’ll teach these cops for trying to stop a truck,” and “We’ll put the fear of God in these guys.”
When a Windsor officer went on the CB to inform the truckers about the seriousness of the accident, he was met with even more abuse.
The comments have been a hot topic of conversation lately among police officers who patrol this stretch of road – also known as Hwy. 3 – that connects Hwy. 401 and the Ambassador Bridge. And according to Windsor police Staff Sgt. Dave Rossell, the incident has made for plenty of bad feelings.
“I don’t think officers are angry, just sad that someone could think like that,” Rossell said. “Just knowing there are people out there who feel that way about the police will make us more cautious. If we have to block another lane of traffic to protect ourselves when we pull someone over, that is what we are going to do.”
The Ontario Provincial Police assist Windsor police in patrolling a section of Huron Church near Hwy. 401, and officers from the two services know each other well. A veteran OPP officer who requested that his name not be used said that members of both forces are extremely upset about the comments.
“If it was just a few rogues, OK. But if the comments reflect a general lack of respect for the police, we have to stop it,” the officer said. “If the truckers want to play hardball, we will have no mercy. There will be zero tolerance on Huron Church.”
The officer also said that the level of tension between truck drivers and passenger vehicles has been rising along with the traffic congestion, and police are caught in the middle. The police must enforce the law and keep the road safe for everyone, but pulling drivers over to issue tickets often causes slowdowns and raises tensions even more. “The truck traffic, alone, has grown 10-fold in the last 10 years, and this road was built in the 1950s,” he said.
Huron Church is unusual in that it is an urban road, complete with 13 sets of traffic lights, that links Hwy. 401 to the Interstate system across the bridge. Rossell said that traffic has increased exponentially since the completion of the Free Trade Agreement. The road currently handles about 40,000 vehicles per day, including 8,000 to 12,000 trucks.
In addition, Huron Church is also the only stretch of a major NAFTA corridor that is policed and maintained by a municipality. Windsor Mayor Mike Hurst has complained loudly to both the provincial and federal governments about the problems caused by international truck traffic on Huron Church and the financial burden the road places on Windsor taxpayers.
“No one will listen,” said Hurst. “One could argue that Huron Church Rd. is part of the most significant trade corridor in North America and it has to function well. But, as a municipal road, it is not functioning well because it is over capacity. I have asked the senior levels of government to acknowledge they have a responsibility to help us, but they just send letters.”
Ontario Transportation Minister David Turnbull was asked to comment on this issue but the minister had not done so by press time.
Hurst has publicly suggested several ways to help alleviate the congestion, or the cost. He suggested that the city impose a surcharge on trucks to be collected at the Ambassador Bridge, but that idea was quickly shouted down by the province and other interested parties. He has also called for an alternate route to link Hwy. 401 directly with the Interstate, but doesn’t hold out hope of seeing that kind of project any time soon. In the meantime, Huron Church is rapidly becoming a municipal road that residents of the municipality don’t want to use.
“My focus has to be on spending resources to protect the interests of Windsorites,” Hurst said. “We have to do something.”
That something may mean more tickets for trucks. Hurst admitted that Windsor police are making a “concerted effort” to crack down on truckers who break the law in an effort to make the road safer for local drivers. “Huron Church is becoming increasingly pressurized, increasingly unsafe, and that situation is conducive to tragedy,” he said.
The road almost experienced such a tragedy on Feb. 9. n