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Huron Church a top priority: Collenette

WINDSOR, Ont. - Clearing the bottleneck known as Huron Church Road is the "Number-one highway priority in Canada", federal Transport Minister David Collenette has proclaimed.The Windsor, Ont. link bet...

WINDSOR, Ont. – Clearing the bottleneck known as Huron Church Road is the “Number-one highway priority in Canada”, federal Transport Minister David Collenette has proclaimed.

The Windsor, Ont. link between Hwy. 401 and the bridge to Michigan is “atrocious, it’s a disgrace,” he told reporters during the annual National Transportation Week convention held here. But he added that money is available to address the issue – specifically, the $600 million the feds will spend on strategic road improvements over the next six years. That will, in turn, be matched by provincial dollars.

But, Collenette said, Ottawa simply has power to allocate money. It’s up to the province to specify where it wants it to go. “We’ve provided the money. I think the Ontario government would say there’s not enough money in it. And, yes, we’d like more money for highways. But let’s get a start. Let’s make a priority access to the Ambassador Bridge.”

The funds will be available between 2002-03 and 2005-06.

Even if a new access road is tolled, it would still be eligible for the federal funding since there’s an alternate free-access route, he said.

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial crossing between Canada and the United States, carrying one third of all cross-border trucks, or 3.4 million per year.

Ontario Transportation Minister David Turnbull said Huron Church is still a concern to his government. But, he said, the province has also been speaking with a consortium that proposes a second bridge in the Windsor area. “I’m very keen that we come to some sort of determination sooner rather than later,” he added of the issue.

Turnbull said that while bridges are “clearly not a provincial responsibility” (the Ambassador Bridge is privately owned), the province could be involved in funding access roads. “(But) I’m not going to make snap decisions on how that would be funded. We’ll look at the proposals on their merits.”

Turnbull told delegates earlier in the convention that the province wants to take new approaches to funding infrastructure and “think outside the box”. And he continued an Ontario government practice of chanting the mantra of the new SuperBuild Corporation, which brings together public and private money. n

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