Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Lansing Shocker

Just like the Michigan Governor took everyone by surprise, so did the Legislative Branches in Michigan with their budget amendments which effectively will kill DRIC.

Oh I have already heard theories about how their decision can be circumvented (and NO, the Governor cannot veto it if it is structured properly) but the new Director of MDOT, if he wants to remain in his position, will not try that kind of a stunt so soon after Gloria Jeff was replaced! I assume that he is smart enough not to tempt Fate by trying to play games with the Republican majority when the Democratic Governor is not assured of re-election!

I was quite amused by the suggestion I heard that the US Federal Government and the Canadian Federal Government should carry on and pay the bills for DRIC to help out MDOT. Don't bureaucrats understand their role? If they want to be policy-makers, let them run for office!

Don't they understand politics? Do they really think that a Federal Republican party is going to do something that undercuts the Michigan Republican party majority in the House and Senate and potentially take away an issue for the Republican candidate who might defeat the Democratic Governor! Politics is thicker than water, even the Detroit River.

The message came through loud and clear---the Legislators did NOT like what they heard from the Bureaucrats both at MDOT and from the Feds at FHWA! Excessive study fees, spending of $1.5 billion of taxpayer money, no $2 billion matching grants, a decade of effort at the Ambassador Gateway and the Bridge Co. not needing a Presidential permit all combined together to tell a powerful story that a Legislator would have a hard time explaining away to a constituent whose roads had potholes!

Even if she could, I doubt if the Governor would dare veto what the House and Senate want. After all, it was her Administration that made a mess out of everything, or that is how the Republicans will portray it to voters. She needs to take a bold step if she wants to regain the momentum and appear decisive as she did when she killed off the Downriver and the East crossings on her own. She needs to act quickly.

The big winner politically in Michigan in all of this has to be the Mayor of Detroit. He can sit back now and let the Democrats and Republicans chase after him for his support. And this is just one issue that they will have to deal with him on before the November election.

What about Canada? This has to be a set-back for those who tried to push through Bill C-3! All of a sudden the best laid plans of mice and bureaucrats have gone awry! It was clear from Lansing that MDOT was pushing for a public bridge, half of which would be owned by them and the other half by Canada. Visons of dollars from tolls and finally defeating the Bridge Co. dancing in their heads. Bill C-3 was being rushed through on the Canadian side. Get it passed before the allegedly "pro-business" Conservatives figured out what was going on! DRIC was the tool to justify what they were doing. Now it is gone.

MDOT and FHWA made a tactical mistake....their actions forced the Legislators to hold Committee meetings which allowed the Ambassador Bridge President to set the facts out that the bureaucrats did not want Legislators to know. Canada presumably will let him speak as well on the Bill C-3 Committee hearings. I am sure that if Dan Stamper speaks, he will shock some of the MPs when they hear what he has to say. The misinformation being spread should cease at that moment and they will have to face a reality! Michigan legislators did and took action. Will the Canadian MPs have the same intestinal fortitude to tell the bureaucrats where to go!

Does the ending of DRIC help Eddie? Frankly, who cares. He is irrelvant in this matter now. Councillor Valentinis is right. No one listens to Windsor any more. He lost his big re-election foe too. He does not have DRIC to bash around. And for some of the Councillors----maybe now they will get the guts to take some direct action as the previous Council did rather than sitting around doing nothing. Some of them should be worried too that they do not have DRIC to be their "friend" and salvation for re-election.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be laughing. The Michigan Legislators did the job for him. He should be agreeing with what they did and should be saying that the process that the Liberals started, another wasteful exercise by the previous Government, is over and done with.

He now has the ability to take charge and act decisively. He should do what should have been done years ago---build the damn road to the bridge already! There is $300 million sitting there. He should commit to doing something now and do it thereby reducing unemployment in Windsor. Eddie won't dare stop him or he would be run out of the City on one of the rails that he wants to turn into trails! It means the possibility, if Harper plays it right, of winning 2 seats here!

Finally, there is the Bridge Co. They won! And we all knew they would. (Oh DRTP is still pretending that they are still able to build a crossing but we know that will never happen). Who will make the first move to talk to them? Someone had better do it, and soon. As time passes, there is less of a need for them to talk to anyone as their project moves forward.

That is the real tragedy for Eddie and Windsor. Had Eddie dealt with them early on and taken them up on their offer made publicly to partner with the City, Eddie would have been able to achieve everything he wanted for himself, personally as a career move, and for Windsor. Our City would have been the big winner with a new efficiently-operating border crossing that would attract tourists and business investment.

As it is now, Eddie will be a one-term wonder, having failed at his major election platform task. (A City Hall insider confided to me recently that the City has no plans for the border)

Who knows what the future will bring for us as the East-West corridor keeps on growing as bureaucrats try to figure out how to prevent the Bridge Co. from moving forward! And do you know what....Perhaps that was the Bureaucrats' real plan after all.

Great Expectations

Charles Dickens was not the only one who had them. Citizens of Windsor have been expecting an answer now for almost three months to a very easy question.

The question now is what is being hidden from us since I have heard from City Hall that the material has been prepared already!

Policing Priorities

Smoking seems to be a bigger crime than violence on city streets or possible crimes against court officials.

If you can make sense out of these two stories let me know. The "no smoking" police have the cash it seems to grow in number while the real ones struggle with financial problems.

Five more officers hired to enforce smoking ban

Windsor Star, Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will hire an additional five enforcement officers to ensure compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which goes into effect May 31.

"This will allow the health unit to work with individuals from the business community as well as the community at large to ensure overall compliance with this important health legislation," Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, chairman of the health unit, said Wednesday.

The act will prohibit smoking in enclosed work and public places, including restaurants, bars, sports arenas, private clubs, entertainment venues and offices. It also toughens laws against tobacco sales to minors and will restrict the display of tobacco products in retail outlets, leading up to a total display ban by May 31, 2008.

Security coffers run dry
Mayor says extra court officers straining resources
Windsor Star, Thursday, May 18, 2006

Faced with a summer of police ranks depleted by vacations and the demands of the festival season, Mayor Eddie Francis has warned the attorney general's office it cannot count on police for extra court security much beyond May 25.

Francis met Wednesday with deputy Crown attorney Anne Merritt and informed her the increased security provided by Windsor police officers, added at both downtown criminal court locations after a man slashed himself during a court appearance six weeks ago, is straining limited police resources.

"We can't afford it," said Francis. "It was a temporary solution that's draining our resources. We need our officers on the streets preventing crime, not tied up in court."

The mayor said the issue will likely be decided at the police services board meeting scheduled for May 25. In the meantime, talks with the attorney general's office, court staff and police brass will continue, he said. The issue was not resolved during the Wednesday meeting.

Attorney general's office spokesman Brendan Crawley said the meeting was "part of a continuing and ongoing effort to address the issue of court security."

Police department Deputy Chief Roger Mortimore said police have had six officers, three at each court entrance, assigned to the special court duty since the slashing incident. They search all visitors to the Ontario Court and Superior Court with metal detectors to ensure they are not carrying weapons.

While the number of officers is relatively small, Mortimore said it still takes away from the resources available for other divisions, given the demands of scheduling around-the-clock shifts. He said the situation will worsen with summer vacations and the demands for extra policing for outdoor festivals.

Francis also warned the city is not willing to pick up the province's tab for finding a permanent solution. He said the attorney general's office is studying a walk-through metal scanning system, similar to those at airports, at a cost of between $600,000 and $800,000.

The Host With The Most

I am glad to see that I was able to provide the excuse for the failure of Eddie's meeting for the hundreds of mayors in Canada and the US who were to come here on Friday to talk about passports and such.

According to the Star the session "has been postponed, largely because the date conflicted with the beginning of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, city officials said on Wednesday."

It did not really matter though. Eddie got the headline and the Editorial so who cares if the meeting ever takes place. Pretending to act is almost as good as acting in an election year.

Of course, if there had been proper planning at City Hall, this would never have happened. It is another failing of this Administration. I guess no one there had a calendar that showed holidays in the US. It sounds so reminiscent of the fiasco involving the Windsor City Council meeting in Tecumseh. Everything last minute and then scramble.

However, this is NOT the important part of the story.

"A new date for the mayors' seminar will hopefully be scheduled for later in June with the expectation 70 to 80 mayors will come to Windsor based on expressed interest, said a spokesman for Mayor Eddie Francis."

Then I saw this story in the London Free Press this morning. There was a "Southwest Economic Assembly, a historic gathering of business, academic and political leaders in Stratford." The purpose was to unite Southwestern Ontario if it is to survive as an economic power. "Fierce global competition is forcing regions to co-operate and abandon old rivalries, assembly attendees agreed."

Our Mayor was there (I hope he did not give a speech talking about the border since Windsor has been identified as the trouble spot since we cannot agree on how to build a road to the bridge!) He said ""We have to put progress ahead of politics. That's what what our constituents, our economies depend on," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who offered to hold a followup meeting this summer to formulate detailed plans."

There, don't you see it. Eddie knows our downtown business is in big trouble. So what is he doing about it? Simple---running around everywhere offering to host seminars and meetings! First for US and Canadian mayors, then SW Ontario politicians.

In the Star story, it said "Francis said he is considering sending letters to U.S. senators or visiting Washington to speak directly to lawmakers." I bet he offers to hold a meeting for them here as well to see the situation first hand!

It Disappeared From The Agenda

The item was there...right on the agenda. Another "funky" bus terminal matter: "City Centre Transit Terminal (report available on the Supplementary Agenda)"

No "report" was provided so I wrote to the Clerk's office asking for a copy.

Then the item disappeared....Poof, gone, off the Agenda.

Then I was told that the Estrin/Schwartz fees disclosure was to be heard on Monday at Council. But nothing there yet on the Agenda!

The goings on at Council are certainly mysterious to me.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Waiting For Godot

And also waiting for Eddie to release the information about the Estrin/Schwartz fees

DRIC In Major Coma

I have a question for you, dear reader.

Pretend that you are a member of the House or Senate of Michigan. You learn that your bureaucrats are in the process of spending $16 million or so of taxpayer money on a study to build a new crossing between Windsor and Detroit. This is after your Government and the Federal Government have spent a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars planning for a Twinned Bridge at the Ambassador Bridge.

You are presented with 2 alternatives:
1) Seemingly favoured by the bureaucrats, spend $1.5 billion plus of taxpayer money for a new bridge a mile downriver. In effect, duplicate everything you have done for the past decade. OR

2) Support a private enterprise initiative to have built at the Ambassador Gateway a new bridge at the expense of the company, and NOT of taxpayers, and receive up to $2 billion of Federal matching funds to be used to fix up other Michigan roads for which there is a shortage of money.

My question: which alternative would you choose?

Exactly right, #2 is a no-brainer and the only logical choice!

While neither the Michigan House or Senate made that choice ie choose the Ambassador Bridge project, clearly that thinking must have been involved when both Houses in Michigan passed budget amendments yesterday (or rather early this morning).

The Senate version directs that MDOT “…shall not use any funds to support the Detroit River international crossing study or to implement any recommendations made from such study.”

The House version is slightly different "no funds appropriated may be expended for the study of a new crossing of the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario without prior approval of the House and Senate committees on transportation.

Each respective bill will move to the opposite chamber, and only one version will survive in the final budget presented to the Governor.

We'll discuss the consequences another time!

Cleary A Mess

Eddie has real problems with the Cleary deal. Whom can he blame if it falls apart? Three of the Councillors have conflicts of interest respecting the College since either they work there or have a relative working there I believe so they could not be involved. That leaves seven Councillors to make the decision based on Eddie's negotiated deal. Unless it is a reasonable deal, I can see five of the seven opposing it right off the bat.

On April 19, it was all smiles: "A tentative agreement turning over operations of the Cleary International Centre to St. Clair College and bringing hundreds of students into the downtown is expected to go before city council within two weeks, Mayor Eddie Francis said Tuesday." What's a few weeks between friends, right.

There are probably some very unhappy people downtown in the business community who had some very high expectations.

First the University of Windsor deal went bust and now it appears as if the St. Clair College deal may not happen either. So much for the 1000 students and staff spending money downtown. Gone may be all of the help they can provide to businesses. Say adios to the urban village and perhaps also the funky bus terminal. I sure hope that there is nothing in the Keg deal that guarantees them business. Is this the last hope for the DWBIA too? The new Casino won't help them at all as new retail will migrate away from downtown to the new Convention Centre area.

Will the Cleary deal happen? The College knows that the Mayor is desperate to do a deal to try and save downtown so why not play hardball? Do Councillors know that the deal may not be a good one for the City but are they prepared to hold their collective noses and sign off on it?

On the other hand, it's an election year. Do they want to be part of an Eddie salvage operation, just like with the Bus Terminal and the Arena thereby jeopardizing their own political careers if it is a dumb deal? Do they view this as another Canderel perhaps?

I am told that the issue is one of who “owns” the Cleary once St. Clair moves in. The College wants to be the owner since it chooses not to make a heavy capital investment in a leasehold deal. The City wants to remain the owner since it is still a City property even though it will be leased out. The concern is that the College won't guarantee that it simply won't "flip" the Cleary down the road for big bucks. Can you imagine if the College sold the property and made millions in profit when the City gave it to them for virtually nothing. It would be embarrassing to the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” that he would be outfoxed by a mere academic.

We were told by the Mayor that "The substantive parts of the agreement were included among the parameters set down by council when these discussions began and should not come as any surprise."

College president John Strasser said, "we hope to have something ready for council by the end of April providing the minor details are worked out and then it's up to council to decide."

I cannot believe however that this is the real issue. It is something so fundamental to the deal that it should have been resolved right at the start of negotiations, probably before the Mayor kissed the University good-bye! If it was left to the end, then it shows the immaturity of negotiating at City Hall.

Will the blame be placed on St. Clair again for pulling out on the deal in the last minute as happened with them at the Income and Security building. Will the Star give us all of the breath-taking inside gossip that points the finger elsewhere than the Mayor's office?

However, President Strasser knows he can wait. The Cleary is going nowhere. It will continually drain money from the City. There will be a new Mayor come November anyway so he can restart negotiations with him.

One of my contacts said to me this morning:
"Notice how everytime something is going bad, Francis is quoted to say "We need to bring resolution to this, one way or another". That seems to be his way of indicating there will be no deal."

Eddie may have one way out...but will the University even answer the phone after the last meeting involving the Cleary? Or is this whole episode nothing more than a big set-up so that Eddie will look like a miracle worker to "save the downtown" and to force Councillors to agree to something that makes little sense? We'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

John Milton Was Right

"They also serve who only stand and wait" for Eddie to disclose finally the Estrin/Schwartz consulting fees.

Funky Down-Town

Out of sight!

I am telling it like it is, man! Like, it could have been a bad scene, you know. A real bummer. Like, who needs a thousand students downtown when we have Councillor Joyce Zuk?

Like, you know, man, she tells it straight...the serious Councillor who tore a strip off the back of ex-Mayor Mike Hurst when she felt that Council meetings were out of control! The Councillor who challenged her colleagues by thinking outside the box and suggesting that the Canderel space be given for doctors' offices, rent-free, since the subleasing would still cost the City a fortune. The Councillor who can sock it to them eg the "witch hunt," as she called it, at the Library. Oh wow, some real heavy stuff.

Hey man, is this the "real" Joyce Zuk that we are now seeing? Is she in the groove after getting Council to agree to spend funds for a playground in her Ward, less uptight?

First, her description of the new Bus Terminal. It was right on:

  • "It's funky," said Windsor Transit board chairwoman Joyce Zuk, also a city councillor. "We can't wait to move out of the bus dump and give the city an esthetic, state-of-the art bus terminal."
Far out!

Then the ultimate....I dare not even think of it. It blows my mind:

  • "I'd like to do a little dance of excitement," said Coun. Joyce Zuk. "It's exciting for council when something is going downtown other than a massage parlour."
Get it on Councillor!

Stay loose. Forget the 5 vendor Farmers' Market at the Armouries. Forget the City's Birthday bash. Forget Fireworks Night.

We can have a BE-In. Do you dig it? Seriously, can you imagine the throngs downtown if Joyce does her dance of excitement at the funky bus terminal! It would be groovy!


Passports and tourism

I see that the Toronto Star reported that "U.S. President George W. Bush suggested that the United States is flexible on working out which new identification cards will be acceptable at the border with Canada, saying they shouldn't be "restrictive."

Fantastic...just in time so that our Mayor can take the credit for it! Obviously the President must have felt threatened by the calling of a border meeting by Eddie so made this concession. I note though that, according to the Star, "Francis said his staff is confirming who will attend the summit and he hopes there will be enough people to proceed with the meeting." It really does not matter if it takes place or not; a headline talking about action is a headline after all that can be used in a re-election campaign! Just like excerpts from today's Star Editorial.

I wonder when the invitation was mailed out. I am sure that the "Sixty-five U.S. city mayors and 170 Canadian mayors [who] have been invited to attend" will drop everything to come to Windsor this Friday, especially the Americans before the Memorial Day long holiday weekend! What a clever ploy to have them stay here for the holiday eh.

Eddie in his note wrote:
  • "We would like to invite you to join with other U.S. and Canadian city Mayors on May 26 at a US-Canada Mayors' Summit, Windsor Ontario Canada to speak out on this issue. We want to ensure that our respective federal governments get WHTI right so that the security and prosperity of our communities are not compromised...

    The US-Canada Mayors' Summit on May 26, 2006 from 10 am -1 pm in Windsor Ontario directly across from Detroit MI., will bring cities on both sides of the border together to raise awareness of WHTI, discuss its potential impacts, and propose mutual solutions that will enhance security and facilitate travel and trade between our nations. The summit is hosted by the City of Windsor, in cooperation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

    Changes are needed along the Canada-United States border to improve security and increase efficiency. This is not in question. The issue is how to do this. The post 9/11 security environment provides the catalyst for real change. We need to take the time to get it right. Join us on May 26 in Windsor to add our collective municipal voice to this important debate."

    It's happened before in the US. Actions taken without thinking about the consequences to business and tourism on both sides of the border. As was said "its implications were not fully understood or debated."

Just so you know, this is not a new topic. I found this interesting material from 1998 dealing with Section 110 of the ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM AND IMMIGRANT RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1996. Section 110 provided that, by September 30, 1998, the Attorney General must develop an automated entry-exit control system that will enable the Attorney General to track the arrival and departure of `every alien' entering and leaving the United States.

Just one excerpt:

On October 14, 1997, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Senator Spencer Abraham, convened a field hearing in Detroit, MI, at which testimony was heard concerning the traffic congestion and delays that would result from the implementation of section 110 as written. ...

Witnesses testifying at the hearing universally voiced concerns that implementing section 110 at the land borders could cause severe traffic delays that would effectively close the land borders. Testimony highlighted that Michigan would particularly be affected because of the relatively large number of high-volume border crossings located in the State. Mayor Archer explained that, of all crossings on the Northern border handling U.S.-bound vehicle traffic from Canada, Detroit's Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canadian crossing, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the second busiest, and Port Huron's Blue Water Bridge is the fifth.

Implementation of section 110 at the land borders would, he explained, turn `downtown Detroit [into] a virtual parking lot.' Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., testified that the Ambassador Bridge handles approximately 30,000 vehicle crossings per day. Mr. Stamper calculated that `assum[ing] the most efficient and remarkable entry and exit procedures in the world [that] will take only 30 seconds' per vehicle, and making the equally optimistic assumption that only half of the vehicles have to go through the procedures, that would amount to an extra `3,750 minutes of additional processing time each day.' As he pointed out, `there are only 1,440 minutes in a day.' Mr. Stamper concluded that, if section 110 is put into place at the land borders, `we are talking about closing the border...'

Steve Facione, group vice president of Olympia Entertainment, which operates the Joe Louis Arena, the Fox theater, Tiger Stadium, and other entertainment facilities in the Detroit metropolitan area, expressed concern that the many Canadians who make day-trips and evening-trips to Michigan for baseball games, hockey games, and other events would be turned away by border delays and would spend their entertainment dollars in Canada rather than the United States. Port Huron Mayor Steve Miller highlighted the fact that many retailers and manufacturers in Port Huron depend on Canadian business for their survival, and that, without that business, jobs that fuel the economy and the taxes provided by Canadians that go to provide services to Michiganians would disappear. As he put it, `the long lines at the bridge will put an end to the long lines at our cash registers.'

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Still Waiting

The countdown continues. When will Eddie let us in on the big secret? What are the fees for Estrin/Schwartz and all of the other consultants?

Understanding DRTP

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.