I have never understood DRTP. I have never understood their tactics or strategy. Clearly, given my background with STOPDRTP and OJIBWAY NOW!, I have never understood why people would support their concept. Yet they are still around notwithstanding that Schwartz and the DRIC engineers have rejected their solution for a border crossing (as did MDOT many years ago in a Report that effectively killed a DRTP-type project!).
It's troubling to me that the Windsor Star did not cover the Rail Lands by-law hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board. They should have. There was only one story about the hearing that I can recall: the story setting out what the City's lawyer David Estrin said in his legal argument. No one was there when DRTP set out theirs and that was a shame.
This is a very important matter. If DRTP loses, then one would have to say that their chances of getting anything in this City are remote. Perhaps then OMERS/Borealis will write-down their investment even if FSCO has not completed their almost 2 year-old investigation.
This whole episode started very innocuously. Several years ago when Mike Hurst was Mayor, for "housekeeping" purposes, two bylaws covering Windsor and the old Sandwich area that was amalgamated into Windsor were combined into one. One small matter escaped everyone's attention at City Hall---the Mayor, the Councillors, the lawyers, the planners---until the very last second. That minor matter was that to the zoning of the DRTP lands, a new item was added: "Truck transport facilities." That housekeeping change might have allowed the DRTP corridor to be used for a truck expressway which today would have to be 6-lanes wide to meet the DRIC requirements.
Could that strange language allow a truck expressway to be built? In the end, that is really what the big hearing in front of the OMB was all about.
When I was with STOPDRTP, I was involved in bringing this matter to Council's attention. I could never understand how everyone at City Hall could have missed this very important point at a time when the border crossing issue was at its height. It just seemed to be below the radar screen totally until it was discovered by a fluke.
It would have been ironic. Here was Council on the one hand passing Resolution after Resolution against the building of DRTP and on the other hand, the "housekeeping" by-law that Council approved might have allowed DRTP to build a truck expressway.
My own view at the time, and it still is, was that the new by-law would NOT permit a truck expressway in any event. How could "Truck transport facilities" mean a "road." It is Highway 401, not Facilities 401. It is Highway 3, not Facilities 3. Ontario's 1996 Provincial Policy Statement in its Infrastructure definition distinguishes between a "corridor" and a "facility" in my opinion.
But let's forget all of that. Let's talk about DRTP. Do you truly understand what it is, even today?
DRTP morphed very quickly from being called "the Tradeway" to its new name "the Jobs Tunnel." At one time, it was our long-term solution. Then it changed at another into the short-term solution. It was to be built at grade at first, then it was to be "enhanced" in April, 2005 to make it "near invisible" and now, in February, 2006, they not only repeat that it can be "tunnelled" but they can do "more." DRTP announced that it was prepared to work with Governments "to tunnel all or substantial parts of its rail corridor, including the south end from the 401 to EC Row." It needed $150 million of taxpayer money in the beginning. Their tunnelled project would cost $2 billion as Marge Byington said in Lansing and who would provide that additional cash? It was a private project which is now willing to work with the federal government "to develop an ownership and management model to ensure... the broader general public interests are best served."
I was not able to attend all of the OMB hearing for personal reasons but I listened to some of it. The one thing I had not heard before was calling DRTP "a truck toll road." The use of that term was interesting to me because it seemed to confirm to me the change in the nature of DRTP: the separation of the truck tunnel and the corridor [BLOG: September 27, 2005 Mike Hurst'll Turn Off The Light For You!] It seemed to be a major switch away from the DRTP "project" to the use of the DRTP "corridor" as the revenue generator.
In other words, the DRTP project was dead and the DRTP corridor would be used as a connector to the new crossing wherever it might be as an alternative to the Talbot Road/Huron-Church corridor! Money was money after all.
As an example, in February, 2006, DRTP said "our rail coridor is available for governments, DRIC and the public to use...We are ready, willing and able to have our rail corridor used for the benefit of...residents"
In a recent Star story, it was reported that "Backers of a border traffic proposal are willing to discuss tunnelling and greenway options for its rail corridor, former mayor Mike Hurst told city councillors Thursday. [Hurst, the DRTP's chief executive said] "If we can assist in moving trucks through a tunnel it would be a huge win for everybody."
One just needs to compare the language of their "near invisible" DRTP project in their April 7, 2005 press release where they talk about the "project" in some detail with the language of their press release in February where only "corridor" is mentioned.
Then when I heard about a "toll" it seemed to clinch everything. Of course, I wondered how high the toll would be for this new tunnelled route since the $2 billion cost had to be covered. Which trucker would use it if there was an above-ground alternative and that alternative was "free?" I also wondered if an extra toll road cost for Windsor only above the border crossing toll would chase traffic away from this area to our economic detriment. All the other border crossings had their roads to the crossing paid for by Government and with no toll or cost to truckers.
Nevertheless I thought then that I finally understood what DRTP had become.
However, when I read the following in the Final Submission by the DRTP lawyer, I became totally confused again. While there was discussion about DRTP being underground ("DRTP, through its planner, has suggested accepting a zoning amendment which would require the placing below grade or tunnelling of the roadway in order to pre-empt the issue of impacts on sensitive lands") , the DRTP lawyer discuseed the "DRTP Corridor Characteristics and Adjacent lands" right at the end of his submission in this fashion:
- DRTP has "characterisitics which would be well suited to the introduction of a roadway for the purposes of conveying vehicular traffic."
- from the river south to the portal, it is underground (Riverside to College)
- as one goes south, there is deep cut with significant berms up to grade and is adjacent to industrial lands or the Van der Water yard up to EC Row
- South Cameron dwellings are old and never had any form of noise or other attenuation
- occupants of South Cameron Blvd are already exposed to road noises
- in DRTP South lands, there are already siginificant berms and noise walls that have been constructed to mitigate impact from transportation use on adjacent lands
When you read this description of the corridor, where are the "sensitive lands?" Frankly, why should anything be tunnelled if one accepts what the DRTP lawyer says? Tunnelling becomes a huge waste of taxpayer money.
Can't you just see it---Governments choose this corridor and then just after construction is started but before a lot of money is spent:
- the Danish Professor's book---MegaProjects and Risk--will be trotted out
- the costing will be re-examined
- someone will say that this is a Megaproject gone wild
- someone will wake up and says $2 billion, or more, for what
- it will set a bad precedent for any new road-building anywhere in Canada they will say
- then the engineers will be asked if we really need the tunnelling
- someone will recall the DRTP lawyer's statement and the route will be examined
- the answer will be given that"No tunnel is needed!"
- find other cheaper ways to "mitigate" the noise and air pollution they will be told
- they will.
All of a sudden, the DRTP project is back! Perhaps now I understand it.