Truck inspection station upgrade rattles community
March 1, 2006
WINDSOR, Ont. - The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is moving ahead with the reconstruction of its truck inspection station on Hwy. 401 just outside Windsor, despite calls by local municipal offici...
WINDSOR, Ont. – The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is moving ahead with the reconstruction of its truck inspection station on Hwy. 401 just outside Windsor, despite calls by local municipal officials to move the site further east and out of Essex County.
The province has advertised its planned Transportation Environmental Study Report, on public view with requests or comments allowed until Feb. 10, in the Town of Lakeshore, a rapidly growing community outside of Windsor and through which part of Hwy. 401 runs.
The project is in its environmental assessment stage and takes place at a time when the ministry has been undertaking major improvements to the expressway in the region, including expanding the highway from four to six lanes. Reconstruction of the facility, located along the eastbound lanes, is expected to begin before the year is out, a ministry official said.
“Construction is linked to Highway 401 reconstruction, part of the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Plan and is required in order to maintain a safe and efficient work environment,” the ministry’s Emna Dhahak said.
The station, located east of Manning Rd., will be “rehabilitated” to include road re-surfacing, a lighting upgrade, a weigh-in-motion scale on the ramp lane, a triage plaza with canopy, and an improved inspection area with inspection bays. There will also be a reserve area to accommodate future expansion. The government is reconstructing the station “to better serve the operational needs of our staff and industry,” Dhahak said.
But Lakeshore Mayor Bob Croft said his town council’s calls for the station to be moved out of the area have fallen on deaf ears.
“We tried to stop it,” he said. “We don’t like the location of it.”
But, he said, the ministry’s response was that the site would remain. “There were no ifs, ands or buts, they just said, ‘No, we want it there,'” Croft said.
Croft had been on a crusade over the past year against the build-up of trucks circumventing Hwy. 401 and using local roads – especially Hwy. 42 – that he says has been a deliberate action by truckers to avoid the inspection station, along with a smaller station along westbound lanes in the same area. Last year Essex County’s engineering office conducted a truck survey and found as many as 1,300 trucks over an eight-hour period were using the local road, Croft said.
Croft said it isn’t so much that truckers don’t want to have their vehicles weighed as the time they have to wait to be processed.
“It’s just the delay,” he said.
He said trucks avoid Hwy. 401 by leaving the Ambassador Bridge, taking a detour along Windsor’s city-owned E.C. Row Expressway, connect to Hwy. 42 and then back to Hwy. 401, east of the inspection station.
Other trucks, he said, might travel out of Windsor south of Hwy. 401, along Hwy. 46, and similarly join the expressway further east.
Croft said as more trucks do this, truckers might come to realize the convenience of always using local roads.
After all, he said, there are minimal controlled intersections with traffic lights along E.C. Row and the county roads, whereas if truckers continued along Huron Church from the bridge “there’s probably 10 lights between it and where the 401 starts.”
The mayor said he thinks the facility’s expansion will make things even worse because it “may be more corrective and it might delay (trucks) longer.” He suggested it would make more sense that the station be located far enough away from Windsor to make it not worth truckers’ time to travel the local roads.
“If it was on the other side of Tilbury it would be much harder for the trucks to go around it.”
Croft said a major problem for the rapidly growing residential and bedroom community on Windsor’s eastern side is both traffic and the condition of roads, and he said increased truck volume is “just destroying” the roadways.
The ministry’s Dhahak said the improvements would actually improve truck processing by “reducing time spent in the queue.”
The expanded facility will also “reduce risk” of commercial vehicles backing up on to the highway.
Jill Morgan, staff representative for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said the reconstruction will improve safety for her union’s members who work as inspectors “where there’s lots of potential” they could get hit by a vehicle.
In fact the expanded station will have better visibility for both staff and truckers and “building modifications” will also improve visibility for workers, the ministry said.
The smaller station along the westbound lanes has been decommissioned and is being moved as part of highway reconstruction, Dhahak said.
The reason for the eastbound plaza upgrade, in addition to dovetailing with general highway improvements, is because the ministry “has placed its focus at the border entry point,” she added.