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Feds may twin TCH as Chretien’s “legacy” (September 01, 2002)

OTTAWA, Ont. - The twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway from coast-to-coast could become a reality if Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Cabinet gets its wish.Chretien's advisers have suggested twinning t...

OTTAWA, Ont. – The twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway from coast-to-coast could become a reality if Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Cabinet gets its wish.

Chretien’s advisers have suggested twinning the TCH right across the country, a move that would serve as his legacy.

Herb Dhaliwal, Natural Resources Minister of Canada, says Chretien likes the idea of a “superhighway” spanning the entire country, as it would help the nation’s productivity.

“It would be a great project to have a double-lane highway from one end of the country to another,” says Dhaliwal.

“It would be a great legacy for the Prime Minister. There would be a lot of support across the country for it,” he adds.

The project won’t come cheap, however, with estimates ranging from $10 billion to $15 billion to twin the single-lane stretches of highway.

Dhaliwal says tolls or a dedicated fuel tax could be implemented to help fund the project, should it get the green light.

Not everyone was quick to support the idea, however. Harry Gow of Transport 2000 Canada says, “This would be an enormous expense. Four lanes across Newfoundland, for example, strikes me as a little bit of overkill.”

Instead, Gow suggests building six-lane highways at the entrance to major cities and strategically adding to highways that are in the most need of a facelift.

“The idea of some kind of transportation initiative to memorialize Jean Chretien and his administration might well be a good idea, but I don’t think four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway on an indiscriminate basis across the country makes any more sense than building a moose pasture in downtown Toronto,” Gow adds.

At least one provincial Premier, New Brunswick’s Bernard Lord, has already chimed in that he would be more than happy to help make Chretien’s legacy possible.

The PM visited the eastern province in August to wrap up a deal for the final twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway through New Brunswick.

Both Ottawa and the province have agreed to a 50/50, cost-sharing formula for completing the approximately 140km of highway work, estimated at $420 million.

The province had been asking that Ottawa cover as much as 80 per cent of the tab.

The news of a fully-twinned route is also welcome news in the Lake Louise area after a fatal accident claimed the lives of three young people, renewing calls for such a project locally. The accident was the third fatal crash on the single-lane stretch of highway running from Castle Junction to the B.C. border this summer.

“It seems Parks Canada is more concerned about saving the lives of the bears and not as concerned about human life on the roads,” says resident Janelle Robertson.

Local MP Myron Thompson also lashed out at the feds for having put twinning the deadly stretch of highway on hold for 10 years now.

“We lost three more young lives unnecessarily,” he blasted. “I guess their priorities are elsewhere.”

The RCMP, local residents and area municipalities have all been appealing to Ottawa for some time now, but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

Not everyone is excited with the idea, mind you.

While officials in Kenora, Ont. admit it would benefit the region’s tourism sector, they question whether the money might be more useful if spent in other ways.

“I think its a great plan – but I think when they look at the real dollar value that it is going to cost to do it, they are going to re-evaluate it,” says Andy Scribilo, president of the Kenora and District Chamber of Commerce.

“I think the money probably could be better spent for different programs – they should be asking the different communities and the chambers how they feel.

“We need a CT scanner in Kenora first.”

But, Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield thinks four lanes from Kenora to the Manitoba border would help open up accessibility to Kenora, especially in the summer.

“I think it is a fantastic idea. With the increase of truck traffic, it is definitely necessary,” says Canfield.

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