The More One Learns, The More One Wonders
To be honest, after all of this time, I would have thought that I and others who are so involved in the border matter would have uncovered by now most of the relevant documentation that would deal with the border crossing issue. Unfortunately, the answer is that we have not.
I am sure that there are still tons of information buried in the files of the Ontario Transportation Ministry and MDOT as an example that would be very helpful in understanding what the issues in the border crossing matter really are. And would save time and money too.
We should not have to search to look for this documentation. Rather it should have been presented to us by the various Governments involved as part of the overall information package. Why have they been hiding this data from us? The clear answer has to be that if we had known about the information presented then it might have deterred the politicians from doing what it seems the bureaucrats want to do regardless of how much it costs.
Remember my BLOG [February 22, 2006 "A Waste Of Three Years"] where I discussed the 300+ page "Michigan-Ontario Railroad Border Crossing Infrastructure" Report. I wrote at the time:
- "I am shocked that MDOT has been sitting on a document that effectively killed a DRTP-type project in 1991! If this kind of a project made no sense, then why was this not brought forward right away. Why did DRTP have to be examined and only now eliminated?"
I found another article over the weekend and it troubles me greatly. What bothers me even more is that the consultant involved in this article is also the US consultant on the DRIC project. The MDOT person has also some involvement in the DRIC project. If one goes to the article, the first question that immediately jumps to mind is why is anyone talking about building another border crossing. The second question is what other information is there in the Gateway and other files that we ought to know about.
The article is: "Ambassador Bridge/Gateway Project Major Investment Study: The First Application in Michigan" by Andrew J. Zeigler, Michigan Department of Transportation; and Joseph C. Corradino, The Corradino Group. It is a description of how the Ambassador Gateway project was carried out. Doesn't this sound like DRIC:
- "This project is unique for several reasons: (1) it represents a cooperative effort with a privately owned international bridge; ... and (3) it involved a consortium of state, local and federal agencies and the private sector represented by a Steering Committee that provided guidance throughout the project.
The project included an intense public involvement effort. Public meetings were combined with numerous one-on-one outreach efforts. Alternative access design concepts were progressively developed both in number and scope from illustrative concepts, to practical alternatives, and finally resulting in a preferred alternative. Item after item was debated at the Project Steering Committee meetings, which the public was invited to attend, and did!"
One notable exception however is the following:
- "The resulting MIS was completed months ahead of schedule; with public support and a community that endorsed the project openly; and a package of $100 million in highway access improvements without displacing any buildings within an urban setting."
We are still dragging on with the DRIC process with a seeming lack of support by the public and it looks like there will be major disruptions on the US side of the border at least and perhaps on the Canadian side depending upon where the new DRIC bridge and Plaza are located.
Here's the problem that the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to solve:
- "The problem being addressed by the MIS is the need for improved access at the United States end of the Ambassador Bridge. Access improvements are key to accommodating future border crossing traffic which is growing exponentially and is stimulated by trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico."
The issue in other words was traffic capacity at the Ambassador Bridge and improved flow-through. Interestingly, once the final solution was reached (after 15 alternatives were considered)
- "The most significant aspect of this proposed $100 million project is that only one residential unit will be taken by its construction."
Isn't it amazing that hundreds of homes and businesses have to be taken now in Delray and no one thinks twice about it.
Here though is the key sentence in the article:
- "Other positive effects of the project are increased safety through better access to the Bridge to handle almost twice as much traffic in the next 20 years as is present today; improved air quality, as Bridge traffic is not interrupted by stop lights."
The article was written in 1997. 20 years from that date is 2017. The volume in 1997 was 2.7 million trucks. Doing the math, the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to handle 5.4 million trucks. And that is before all the significant changes with respect to Customs that have been taken and the new booths that have been added. The article was also written just before the height of the truck volume in 1999, which volume has never yet reached that height again. The Bridge volume in 2006 was 3.64 million trucks with the Bridge at only 50-60% capacity today. Does this mean that the Bridge can now handle over 7 million trucks?
The article, it should be pointed out also, did not state that the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to accommodate another bridge. In case you have forgotten as well, US DRIC said that is preferred crossing location was the Ambassador Bridge site.
Please explain to me therefore how DRIC can suggest going forward knowing that the Gateway project can handle 5.4 million trucks, without another bridge, a volume that may not be reached now for decades as both MDOT and Transportation Minister Cannon have acknowledged recently.
Does any of this make sense to you? Why have millions been continually spent when there is no justification for doing so? When it was clear that traffic volumes have decreased significantly, why the push to go forward? Why haven't the consultants and the MDOT representative revealed this information?
While I am sure that the P3 conference in Toronto was very interesting, did the Transport Canada officials warn investors that they might not be able to recover costs for decades to come, especially given the competition from the existing bridge? Please tell me who is going to invest in the new bridge without a huge subsidy paid for I assume by the taxpayers of Canada and the United States. If I am right in my analysis, how can this new bridge be paid for and what will happen to the existing crossings in southwest Ontario and southeast Michigan if they have to compete with a taxpayer-funded crossing?
The DRIC process is out of control. Our politicians are acting like fools "respecting the process" as millions are wasted and relevant information is not provided.
There is more too in another article that I found on the Blue Water Bridge. I've mentioned this fact before but I thought that it was worthwhile mentioning it again given the huge amounts of money that had been spent on trying to figure out where a new bridge should go to duck the salt mines and brine wells.
The article is "A Tale of Two Bridges, Spanning Blue Waters." The relevant section that I think is important is the following:
- "[In the 1920's] With politics heavily influencing the decision about where to place the bridge, all four proposals called for it to extend from downtown Sarnia to downtown Port Huron. City officials in both municipalities feared economic damage to their central business districts if the proposed bridge were located away from the downtown areas...
In the 1970s, increased traffic volume inspired bridge planners to begin to study the need for a second bridge. Similar to the situation fifty years earlier, the politically sensitive issue of where to locate the bridge preceded who would build and pay for it. However, the established bureaucracies of the 1970s were familiar with transportation planning and had the experience to conduct the needed studies.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications (OMTC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) assembled an international team of engineers and transportation and environmental planners to direct the St. Clair River Crossing Study. The team selected three locations to examine: one adjacent to the existing bridge; another to the south that would link Marysville, Michigan, and Sarnia; a third location between Marine City and Sombra, Ontario. The study team wanted to learn if a new bridge at any of these three locations would divert enough traffic from the Blue Water Bridge to significantly extend its life. The study also looked at a tunnel option, but exorbitant costs quickly caused the team to drop it...
After holding public meetings and studying several alternatives recommended construction of a second bridge just south of the existing bridge.
The Canadian Blue Water Bridge Authority, which owned and operated the existing bridge, had already purchased right-of-way immediately to the south side of the bridge. A new bridge located there would require less displacement of property and homes than one to the north. A southern location would accommodate the expansion of the bridge plaza on both the American and Canadian sides of the bridge."
Do you see what I mean, again. Please don't tell me that the ideal location is not right beside the existing bridge. Please don't tell me that the DRIC people don't understand that. Please don't tell me that the decision-makers don't understand that a new bridge is not a financial go for years because of a lack of volume and will not be a go for years to come.
Please don't tell me that this entire process is not designed to force the Ambassador Bridge to sell out and to sell out cheaply so that the Governments can do what the Ambassador Bridge Company wants to do.
Or have a whole bunch of people suffered a memory lapse!