Windsor Mayor Blasts WTC Chair
The latest dustup arose over the new plans revealed at the Public Information Session for the Tunnel Plaza. Again, few Windsorites attended the Tunnel session compared with the number of people who attended the better-publicized DRIC sessions as an example. Francis and Francis pointed the finger at each other over who was responsible for the poor promotion of the session so that few Windsorites were aware of it. Cynical observers may be surprised since the feeling of some was that the powers-that-be wanted few taxpayers to attend so no one would object to the Plaza plans. It appeared that quick action was wanted to approve the plans and to move forward on them.
Mayor Francis outlined to WTC Chair Francis his scare-mongering tactics when he wanted big crowds out to oppose DRIC and wondered why this was not done for the Tunnel. “There are enough problems with the Tunnel that, with a bit of good scare tactics, we could have had huge crowds to fill the Cleary!” Apparently, Francis was too polite to reply that he thought Francis did not want crowds at the Cleary since that could be considered as competition to the Casino. If it could be shown that the Cleary was a viable operation, Councillor Gignac might raise a fuss again about the St. Clair deal.
The word is that Mayor Francis and WTC Chair Francis tried to pin the blame on each other over a number of failings at the Tunnel:
1. Cost overages of around 50% at the Tunnel Ventilation Building with extra costs at $7 million
2. Why no one seemed to know about, and what a recent magazine article called, "a unique security risk [at the Tunnel], which makes Customs and Border Protection officials nervous” or if someone knew about it, why no one did anything about it for years.
3. Why no one seemed to know, and what a recent magazine article said, that "US Customs has said that the Tunnel doesn’t meet their requirements” or if someone knew about it, why no one did anything about it for years
4. The real risk that Transport Canada with Bill C-3 coming may legally have to take drastic action at the Tunnel with possible severe consequences to its operations
5. The Windsor side's low pricing policy has been a total failure since “there hasn't been a noticeable increase in traffic numbers despite the Windsor side of the tunnel providing the cheapest cross-border tolls at either the bridge or tunnel in recent years."
But it was the new Tunnel Plaza improvement plans that caused the major flap. Whether that was the straw that broke the camel’s back is not known. All that is known is that many more people are questioning whether $30 million ought to be spent on a Plan that does not move one single vehicle more quickly to the US side. Francis may have told Francis that he has strong doubts that if the Senior Levels ever wake up and realize how foolish this Plan is that they will continue to fund this Project. A question that is underlying all of this is whether the study has actually looked at all reasonable alternatives so that it would withstand a legal challenge in the manner that DRIC seemed to do where they looked at ones that made little sense right from the beginning.
At the least, neither Francis nor Francis were so impolite to raise the fact that DCTC could solve the whole problem by spending only a few million dollars and without disrupting travel paths in Windsor or else the roof would have been blown off.
Chair Francis stated that he believed that there was more behind this Plaza scheme than met the eye and wondered what it was. The obvious question to ask was why the Tunnel Plaza was the focus of the Phase 1 agreement when the real issue was truck traffic on Huron Church Road. Apparently, Mayor Francis told him to be more respectful and to mind his business. Francis replied strongly, that anything to do with the Tunnel was “his business!”
The piece de resistance however, was the new Plaza Plan revealed. It is not clear whether Francis or Francis raised the issue first but environment was front and centre. Apparently one of the Francises asked: how could the Tunnel dare do what it is doing given the City’s passing of the Environmental Master Plan only a few days before.
Now I am not sure exactly what was discussed at that point since my source is unclear but it may have to do with the fact that:
1) It has not been publicized that the air from the Tunnel that leaves the Tunnel Ventilation building is “unscrubbed.” I do not know if the renovations plans included adding scrubbers but if not, then how does that fit into helping the environment
2) The new plan effectively creates a giant parking lot at the Tunnel entrance, about 5-10 acres I was told, at the Tunnel meeting yesterday that can hold several hundred vehicles. The City objected when DRTP wanted to create a customs plaza in the heart of Windsor and now the City or WTC is effectively creating a parking lot in the heart of downtown Windsor where vehicles can spew fumes while waiting to enter the Tunnel!
Obviously, when one combines the unscrubbed air and a giant parking lot being promoted by the City, the actions of the City in passing the Environmental Master Plan can only be considered as mere electioneering before the November election. As Francis said at the Francis-Francis meeting, “Another Mayoral Check-mark on the Report Card!”
No wonder there was such a fight. I hope it gets resolved so that Francis and Francis can work together.