Metrolinx Transportation Plan Needs Work, says Bradley

TORONTO — The Ontario Trucking Association said it commends Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for giving priority to solving gridlock in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and acknowledging the toll congestion costs exact on the supply chain, which in turn impairs Ontario competitiveness, direct investment, safety and the environment.

In a letter to the Premier, OTA president David Bradley says the association will be a constructive participant in the conversation about funding options, but argues there are a number of important issues OTA believes need to be part of the conversation from the outset.

The plan was developed by Metrolinx, a government agency created to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the GTHA. It’s a 25-year, $50 billion regional transportation plan aiming to bring 80 percent of the region’s population within two kilometres of rapid transit in 2008. The agency has been assigned the task of finding revenue tools to fund the plan, but the province will ultimately make the decision.

Dubbed The Big Move, the plan focuses on improving transit in the GTHA region, which Bradley said, “can help alleviate road and highway congestion if enough people actually get out of their cars.”

But an “efficient goods movement, while related to the movement of people, requires its own distinct planning,” Bradley said. “Private motorists can choose whether to drive or take transit,” he says. “Commercial truckers have no such choice.”

“[Is it] fair then that [truckers] should be expected to contribute to the cost of transit,” Bradley asked, “or should the monies collected from them be dedicated to maintenance and strategic expansion of roads and highways?”

Governments currently take in more revenues from road-related taxes and fees than is put back into the system, he said. While truckers are willing to pay their fair share, according to the OTA, “revenues generated from what truckers currently pay in diesel fuel taxes and vehicle plate fees is roughly equivalent or somewhat more than the total annual expenditures under the Provincial Highways Management Program.”

“The issue is one of trust,” Bradley said. “In order to regain the trust of taxpayers that ‘this time things will be different,’ rather than focus solely on new revenue tools, governments must also ensure all current, existing sources of revenue are exhausted and all road-related revenues are dedicated — preferably to a special trust fund, not general revenues.”

Ideally, Bradley would like to see a “‘value for money’ approach to ensure funding goes to projects that will create optimal congestion relief and trade route/supply chain efficiency.”

Wynn, who Bradley commended for putting gridlock as a priority, looks to be leaning that way, the OTA said.

Bradley also noted that governments can maximize existing infrastructure, and pointed to expanding LCV use, incentives for off-peak deliveries, faster accident clean-up, and inspection station/scale by-pass technology.

“The trucking industry — and indeed all road users — want measurable results in reducing congestion costs, and wear and tear on vehicles.”

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