Saying The Unthinkable In Windsor
Oh, am I personalizing it too much? You better believe it!
Let me see, building a crossing a mile or so down the road from the existing bridge, taking over 150 acres of land on the US side for a plaza when hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent already on the Ambassador Gateway project, destroying Delray, perhaps taking 80 acres of prime industrial property in Windsor and sandwiching Sandwich between two bridges. Hundreds of families and businesses on both sides of the border will be disrupted and required to move. Chaos for years. Billions being thrown about...oh it's ok though...it's only P3 money. I can think of better uses for the money frankly
Have we lost all sense of proportion?
NIMBYism, destruction of neighbourhoods, citizen groups fighting citizen groups. Where is our Mayor and Council...spending millions on lawyers fighting our unknown enemies with a failed Schwartz Plan that was finished within the first week of its release. They are still trying to figure out if it is dead or not after all of this time.
The biggest and most divisive issue though on our side that it seems we can never solve is the road to the border. Where should it go? The road to the bridge has always been the corridor that DRIC favours and WALTS did years ago so the City can hardly object. There was the DRTP alternative. The Governments seemed to favour E C Row during the JMC and Nine-Point Plan days. Then came tunnelling as our solution, not sure where exactly. It seems like a loser now with the costs so high and the environmental impact worse than expected.
What is our Mayor's plan for a border solution---
- "There is no reason why the new border solution cannot enhance our city, improve our environment, and make Windsor an even greater city!
And that is what I – and this new Council – intend for it to do!"
So why don't I start something, be controversial. Let me write the words you never thought I would say....
Let's use E C Row as our main road to the border crossing.
Before the Mayor gets apoplectic and my STOPDRTP friends get furious at me, let's remember why we were opposed to the use of that road for international trucks:
- It was the path to DRTP north (Lauzon/E C Row became the connector to Highway 401) and the precursor for building DRTP south
- We need the road capacity for local usage, not for Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks
- We cannot have cars and trucks mixing on it; it would be too dangerous.
Now if can solve those 3 problems, should there be any objections? We can have a rebuilt expressway using the money that would have been used for the DRIC road. The Province and Feds would upload it so that we don't have to waste local tax money to support international traffic. They would have to maintain it, all of it, not just the truck part at their expense, not ours.
As for DRTP, I am not concerned about it any longer. It's finished. As for capacity, I understand that the existing road allowance should generally be enough for 10 lanes. Where it is not some homes may have to be expropriated but far fewer than other road alternatives. It would be expanded to 3 lanes in each direction for cars so we have our capacity increased with 2 in each direction for trucks in separate and dedicated lanes.
I know someone who is quite familiar with Windsor and our roads. I asked the person to write a note for me to see if the use of E C Row made sense. Here is what the expert wrote:
- The Case for E.C. Row
Early on in the process to find an appropriate road to the border, the Expressway was discounted as a possible choice.
Why? People had a vision of E.C. Row Expressway with all the border trucks in absolute gridlock.
Was this a valid vision? Not completely, but it is probably because we were transposing the Huron Church traffic onto our present day E.C. Row Expressway in our minds.
So in its place, consultants including Sam Schwartz have chosen to use the “Existing” border route, Huron Church to handle the brunt of the traffic. The problem with the existing border route is that homes, properties, businesses have lived along side it for a long time. Development has built up the areas adjacent to the Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor in such a way that in order to make this into a proper border route, lots of land must be expropriated.
Using Existing corridors is nothing new, DRTP wanted to use an existing corridor when it was making its case chose to use the Rail Corridor from the 401 to the Detroit River. DRIC is using the Highway 3 / Huron Church corridor as their preferred choice. And initially, the City’s choice was E.C. Row Expressway. However that plan was dropped in favour of the Highway 3 / Huron Church existing corridor.
Unfortunately, many people’s vision of E.C. Row Expressway with all the border traffic transposed on it is a bit flawed. Most assume that the initial plan would have seen a connection built between E.C. Row and the 401 and no other improvements, thus filtering all traffic from the 401 through the City to the border. WRONG.
People must understand that E.C. Row was designed to accommodate up to 8 lanes of traffic within the existing right of way, meaning that for the most part, very little property would be required to accommodate a widened expressway. If it were to be redesigned, most people would agree that it would be a major redesign and might not look at all like the expressway we see today. So if the Expressway were to be the border route, wouldn’t it be expected that it would upgraded to the same degree as what they are proposing to do to Highway 3 / Huron Church?
Secondly, if you look at the properties adjacent to E.C. Row, most are industrial or commercial in nature, save and except for areas between Huron Church Road and Dominion; and between Devonshire Mall and Walker Road. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to put this traffic in an area that has the least amount of residential impact?
The Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor has much more residential property in close proximity to it than E.C. Row. There is of course some industrial and some commercial, but predominantly the DRIC corridor is adjacent to residential neighbourhoods.
So why choose the Highway 3 / Huron Church Corridor over E.C. Row?
So far the arguments have been to take trucks off City Streets to decrease the impact on the City of Windsor by the border route.
The question becomes does the DRIC plan actually take trucks off City Streets? Does the DRIC plan have the least affect on the City of Windsor? Does it improve the quality of life?
Lets look at the more specific aspects of each corridor.
Trucks on City Streets:
Does the DRIC plan address truck traffic in the City of Windsor? No, what most people do not understand the amount of truck traffic that is generated within Windsor itself, how much truck traffic comes in and out of Windsor each day? So if we expand the Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor, will it pull trucks off City Streets. The answer to that is NO. Trucks that you see today on Walker, Provincial, Dougall, Howard will still continue to be there because those trucks are traveling to areas adjacent to E.C. Row Expressway. This border plan does nothing to address removing trucks from City Streets because it fails to recognize the amount of truck traffic needing to get to the Expressway right now.
If E.C. Row was the chosen border route, then trucks could be provided with a Choice: If you are going internationally, choose these lanes, if you are going local, choose these lanes. These lanes of course would have to be physically separated. What would this achieve? Trucks heading for Windsor to and from the 401 would be able to by-pass the neighbourhoods next to Walker, Provincial, Dougall and Howard and connect with the E.C. Row or the 401 directly to get to their destination.
Clearly the DRIC’s Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor will require a great deal of property. According to recent reports, 210 homes and 45 businesses will have to be purchased to widen the corridor sufficiently to accommodate the 401 extension to the border.
The E.C. Row of course was already designed to handle up to 8 lanes of traffic. Now, this may not necessarily mean that there wouldn’t be any land expropriation, but would it be better to expropriate a few properties or would it be better to destroy 210 homes and 45 businesses?
Many people have transposed the backlog of border trucks directly on to E.C. Row Expressway without any changes to its design to accommodate it. If international truck traffic were to be given the choice to use E.C. Row, would you not expect the same level of work and design that is currently being reviewed for the DRIC? Why not transpose the Cut and Cover tunnel on the E.C. Row Expressway? The issue is that no in depth study has been undertaken to review the potential of using our existing expressway to accommodate the border traffic. There have been no detailed designs, no traffic analysis to determine what would be needed to bring E.C. Row’s design up to that which could handle this traffic.
Overall, would city traffic be improved with an E.C. Row border route? Well, we can get rid of the trucks off city streets if we used E.C. Row. The province could pay to upgrade E.C. Row in such a way as to improve it for the greater good of all residents in the City.
One of the other major concerns related to the border is of course air pollution. While adding trucks to E.C. Row expressway will increase pollution in the direct vicinity of the Expressway, what about the net benefit to the areas of South Windsor that will now be free of trucks in their neighbourhoods? The fact is that the E.C. Row corridor is already riddled with industry: Zalev’s, Ford Plant, Chrysler Plan (nearby) and many others already create enough pollution anyway. So concentrating truck traffic in one central area, rather than spreading it around in the West End with the DRIC route, and along Walker, Dougall, Provincial and Howard is supposed to be better somehow? The logic isn’t there.
One thing that cannot be avoided: idling trucks create air pollution. Will trucks idling on the expressway create air pollution: Yes. Will idling trucks on the new DRIC corridor create air pollution: Yes. So which is the lessor of two evils? AND how can either route be designed to mitigate those problems?
Either way the border plan shapes up, we are going to have trucks somewhere in this City. But at the end of the day are we getting the best deal out of this? Or are we getting what we are being told is the best deal, while the real deal is right under our noses.
The E.C. Row Expressway was built for our manufacturing industry. Which of course is why we see the large amount of industrial areas next to it. Having an improved connection to and from the 401 and to and from E.C. Row Expressway can only help our local industry as it copes with its border image problems. Why not give our industry a boost by giving it a transportation network that it can really use? The DRIC border plan does nothing to help encourage industrial growth in our City. Industry wants to be on the 401, or a major highway that connects to the 401.
Why does the Oldcastle area industrial exist? Because its next to the 401 and it has a good connection to the border.
Why is the Town of Lakeshore looking at building an industrial park next to the 401? Because they recognize that industry wants a nearby connection to a major highway like the 401.
The fact of the matter is that the lack of an upgraded highway facility with a direct connection to the 401 is hurting our ability to attract industry. And we will continue to lose out to places like Woodstock and Ingersol who have encouraged access and truck traffic connections in their city if we do not think about this border problem long and hard. The DRIC plan will do nothing to help residents of the City of Windsor. Only a plan that includes E.C. Row truly achieve what the city wants:
Trucks off our local streets
Better Quality of Life.
There was an issue respecting the width of the roadway....you will note that the person talked about 8 lanes while I discussed 10. So I asked "Don't we need 10 lanes? 6 for cars and 4 for trucks?" Here's the answer to that:
- That's a big question.
What I know is that in the near future without border traffic, E.C. Row needs to be 6 lanes, three in each direction. If we want to accommodate what's on the 401, then we may or may not need to have 2 or 4 lanes. The other thing to consider is the fact that trucks and cars from elsewhere will still use the existing corridor. So for instance, vehicles from Leamington, LaSalle, Oldcastle and all the industry and trucks from out there will still probably use the existing Highway 3 Huron Church corridor. Whereas with the DRIC plan, everything has to be combined into one.
With the expressway, I am sure that in most areas 10 lanes could be accommodated within the right of way, but like we discussed before, there would probably be a need to widen a few areas out such as from Walker or so to Huron Church. But in those cases, a little bit of land next to the service roads on both the North and South side would probably work. The interchanges would have to expand at Howard (Take some land from the mall and from some industry on the North Side), at Dougall ( again surplus land to the north, west and to maybe the U-haul place, Dominion (Some homes might have to be taken, but its less than 241 of them) and at Huron Church (some commercial land, vacant land and industrial land). Everywhere else: ie East of Central all the way to Lauzon Parkway, the right of way is for the most part large enough, and where it isn't, there is hardly any development, its industrial or its a service road.
The thing is that in almost all cases, the areas that would have the greatest need for additional land would not be in areas of sensitive land uses (except for the Dominion area, that probably can't be avoided.) For the most part though, there wouldn't need to be the huge swaths of land that are going to be taken for the DRIC plan.
Imagine if we actually used E C Row...John Tofflemire would be laughing broadly! You can do that when you are right and outside of Windsor.