WINDSOR, Ont. — “After all these years any movement is good movement, but today’s plan is a modest step forward and much more needs to be done to achieve a medium-term and permanent solution,” said Ontario Trucking Association President David Bradley, responding to today’s announcement on a Federal-Provincial Windsor Border Plan.
In Windsor today Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, Federal Transport Minister Jean Lapierre, and Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar announced commitments to fund preparatory work for some projects and kick-start others aimed at helping to relieve Windsor’s border woes.
Bradley acknowledged the plan announced today contains commitments to commence some necessary construction projects; to begin environmental assessments of certain elements of the Schwartz Report; and to study other elements of the Schwartz Report. However, Bradley said the plan does not address the central issue for the trucking industry: a freeway to freeway route that does not rely on municipal roads that would enable trucks to travel efficiently, safely, and without undue disruption to the residents of Windsor, between Highway 401 and the border.
“It is lamentable that after all this time, the governments have not been able to agree on a way to deal with this in the medium-term,” said Bradley. “The two options that have been proposed – the by-pass proposed by the Schwartz Report and improving EC Row Expressway – both present challenges or objections that the three levels of government have not been able to overcome.”
While Bradley acknowledged this is “a complex legal, engineering, political and economic matter,” he doubted that more time and more discussion will lead to a decision on this critical element. “The politicians and civil servants at all three levels of government have had ample time to come to a decision on an improved truck route to the existing border crossing. It is time to consider bringing in a mediator, someone with a background in engineering, environmental assessment law and sensitivity to the community, to work with the governments towards finding a solution within a short period of time that all parties can live with.
“We share everyone’s frustration; a new approach to the negotiations is needed in order to break the current impasse,” said Bradley.
The OTA president also added today’s announcement that the federal and Ontario governments will issue an expression of interest, followed by a request for proposals to select partners to develop a truck marshalling facility in the Windsor-Essex region is something that his association has grave concerns about. “If what they are talking about is a facility where trucks can choose to go or not, or that is designed to be a safety valve during a border crisis that is one thing. But, forcing trucks into a marshalling yard is a bad idea. It contradicts where the border is going in terms of automated clearance and won’t work.”
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