Ontario Libs hire special border advisor

TORONTO, — Ontario Premier Dalton has appointed former Canadian Ambassador to the US Michael Kergin to expedite a plan to construct a new crossing between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit by 2013.

As McGuinty’s special advisor on border issues, Kergin will work with provincial officials, the federal government, and the City of Windsor to speed up a series of projects along the trade gateway. He will also chair the newly-created Windsor Border Initiatives Implementation Group (Windsor BIIG) — a team of 34 provincial staff members dedicated to Windsor border projects.

Raymond Mantha has been appointed executive director of Windsor BIIG. He has a 27-year career with the Ontario
Ministry of Transportation, most recently as chief engineer.

“Jobs, businesses and families depend on our ability to keep people and goods moving through this key economic corridor,” said McGuinty in a press release. “And I know Michael Kergin is the right person to maintain, and increase, the momentum we have built up so far.”

Under the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy, the federal and provincial governments are investing $300 million to improve traffic flow and to address congestion and security issues. Phase two of the
strategy, includes:

An environmental assessment and design for improvements to Highway 3/Talbot Road, Lauzon Parkway and Manning Road; The design and construction of the widening of
Hwy. 401 from Highway 3 to Manning Road; Detailed design and construction of the Howard Avenue road-rail grade separation; and construction of intersection improvements on Hwy. 3 at Outer Drive and Walker Road.

There are several other projects currently on the go, such as highway and road links to the pedestrian overpass on truck-congested Huron Church Rd.; and several ITS projects.

“An efficient border is fundamental to Ontario’s prosperity and I look forward to working with partners in both the United States and Canada to maintain our progress in ensuring that we have a secure and accessible border crossing,” said Kergin.

While it wasn’t specifically addressed in this announcement, the province has in the recent past given its complete support of a proposal to build a truck-bypass of Huron Church, which would eventually lead commercial traffic to a new “central” crossing over the Detroit River.

That plan — designed by New York City traffic expert Sam Schwartz for Windsor City Council earlier this year — would see trucks come off Hwy. 401 to Talbot Rd, and then bypass Huron Church via a “horseshoe” route to the west through mostly vacant woodland. Ojibway Parkway would then carry the traffic north, through a city-owned industrial area, to the new crossing, which would be about 3 km southwest of the current Ambassador Bridge.

The Ontario government gave the proposal a nod in April, saying it would provide up to $150 million for construction. However, at the time the federal government refused to follow suit — much to the disappointment of Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and Schwartz himself.

Ottawa withheld its support for the proposed bypass because it doesn’t want to sway the bilateral process of selecting the location of a future bridge.

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