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Windsor mayor threatens truck blockade, gets wish

WINDSOR, Ont. - The majority of city councillors here don't want to see Mayor Mike Hurst's plot to block trucks from entering the city come to fruition, and it appears they'll get their wish as the fe...

WINDSOR, Ont. – The majority of city councillors here don’t want to see Mayor Mike Hurst’s plot to block trucks from entering the city come to fruition, and it appears they’ll get their wish as the federal and provincial governments have stepped up to the plate.

The decision not to support a blockade, while welcomed by truckers, angered local residents.

Fortunately Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, was on hand at a recent meeting and served as a powerful voice of reason.

He questioned what would happen to just-in-time delivery systems if trucks are banned from the long-standing routes.

“A primary concern for any automotive manufacturer is an efficient border, whereby transportation costs and delivery times are reliable and dependable,” says Nantais.

“Failure to satisfy any one of these factors resonates negatively when future investment decisions are being considered.”

The consensus opinion at the council table was to push the provincial and federal governments to cough up $1.2 million in funding to rig traffic lights on Huron Church with sensors.

As well, council wants to ask that the number of U.S.-bound trucks entering the city be limited by forcing them into a holding area along Hwy. 401.

The Ontario Trucking Association has already gone on record saying that while it sympathizes with the city’s woes, a truck holding area would not solve the backups, as most of the delays are being caused by U.S. Customs inspections.

Holding trucks on the 401 would only create more hazards, as the backlog would be moved to an area regularly travelled at much faster speeds. The potential for accidents would be tremendous.

Traffic commissioner John Tofflemire is confident the province will implement a “real time” messaging system to offer truckers information about traffic delays at the U.S. border while they are en route.

They could then choose to either proceed to the Ambassador Bridge or divert to Sarnia’s Blue Water Bridge. He failed to recognize depending on where truckers are heading and their fleet’s routing procedures, making this decision may not be practical or even possible.

As unorthadox as it may be to hold the province and feds hostage for funding, Windsor’s scheme appears to have paid off.

Just days after the council meeting, a new joint funding announcement was issued by federal Transport Minister David Collenette and Ontario Minister of Transportation Norm Sterling totalling $880,000.

Work will include four projects recommended by the City of Windsor to improve the flow of cross-border traffic.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the need to improve the efficiency of Canada’s busiest border crossing while minimizing the impact on the Windsor community,” says Collenette. “By working collaboratively with the province and the city, this investment will help to immediately reduce traffic congestion and facilitate cross-border trade, and we will continue to work together to address these issues in the short and long-term.”

“Ontario is committed to supporting the efficient operation of the Windsor-Detroit Gateway,” says Sterling. “We will continue to work with the community and our federal and municipal partners to improve traffic flow in the community and at the border.”

The four projects include:

Upgrading vehicle detection video equipment to adjust traffic signal timing to current conditions;

Installing an incident management video system to monitor traffic conditions to assist emergency service response;

Converting existing traffic lights to light emitting diode signals, which require less maintenance, to provide improved visibility for more efficient traffic flow;

and, implementing data collection systems to allow for better traffic planning activities by revising and updating signal timing and providing more accurate data on traffic peak periods, vehicle classification and lane use.

The governments of Canada and Ontario will work with the city and industry to identify other practical short-term solutions to help ease traffic congestion.

A Bi-National Planning, Needs and Feasibility Study is currently under way to identify, evaluate and select alternatives to expand capacity at the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

This is a partnership between governments on both sides of the border to address the long-term challenges at the gateway.

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