Choosing To Send Tax Dollars To The Salt Mines
Politics is the task of choosing amongst competing needs and wants. Why can't they just do the right thing every time is the obvious question?
If only life was that easy!
If you are a politician in the Windsor area or at the Senior Levels or in the US, here is what you are being faced with today with recent bridge, road, tunnel and mine events in Montreal, Boston, Minneapolis, China and Utah fresh in our minds:
- "According to reports this week, Canada may need as much as $100 billion to fix bridges, roads and other physical plant that is rusting out as we use it. Quoting Statistics Canada, an Ottawa Citizen article says bridges in this country have reached about half their useful life - meaning it's high time to think about what happens before they get closer to the end. There are almost 3,000 bridges under provincial jurisdiction and many more under municipal authority."
- "The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that we [in the US] need to spend over $1.6 trillion on infrastructure improvements and expansions in the next 5 years."
- "[In the US] 26 percent of bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Over 2,000 bridges on the interstate highway system are in need of an overhaul, according to Frank Moretti, TRIP's director of research."
Do you really think it makes sense to spend billions on a DRIC solution when government money could be used instead to inspect and fix up existing infrastructure especially when private funds can be used to build the bridge! And in Michigan, billions more can be obtained in federal matching funds.
What's the condition of the overpasses on E C Row as an example and are you concerned when Cansult says:
- "It is understood that the existing condition of the concrete base on the expressway and at least several of the interchange structures is less than satisfactory due to alkali-silica reactions occurring due to the type of aggregate used. As a result, it may be appropriate to consider the possibility of coordinating the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the expressway at the same time that the median widening is undertaken to take advantage of the traffic staging and cost efficiencies."
What would YOUR choice be?
Let me ask a further question that offers a choice and that seems appropriate given the horrific bridge and mine tragedies recently.
Why would anyone want to take a chance and spend billions dollars to build a new road, plazas and a bridge where there are salt mines and brine wells especially where they have been sink holes and other buildings not developed because of soil problems. Does it make any sense whatsoever?
If you had two places to build, one a risky one and another absolutely safe, which choice would you make?
The Star reported several years ago:
- "Salt mines, underwater pipelines and brine wells which caused a massive sinkhole in the 1950s are posing a threat to a proposed Ojibway Parkway border crossing. The west-end industrial corridor, preferred by Windsor and Detroit city councils, as well as New York traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, has several obstacles threatening to make a new bridge in the area extremely costly or impossible, says a top official with a binational team assigned to choose the crossing location.
"People would expect (an Ojibway Parkway crossing) to be a short- list option, but we are not prepared to make that decision at this time," said Leonard Kozachuk, project engineer for the binational Detroit River International Crossing project. "There are a lot of challenges in that location. "It's an area we are looking at closely because of the potential, but there is key infrastructure there that makes it not easy to do site planning…
Kozachuk added that along with the brine wells, area salt mining, expansion of the Lou Romano sewage plant and massive gas and power pipelines buried in the riverbed in the area have also emerged as other obstacles."
Is someone trying to prove how clever they are no matter how much it costs as an extra with the public taking all of the risks if something goes wrong? Who is the big gambler on DRIC, the bureaucracy or the Government in all of this? It boggles my mind.
Which engineer (and its insurers) are going to certify that there is no problem with collapse, ever? Which politcian is going to make the decision that this makes sense to do? Which user will cross the river using that bridge if there is a safer one down the road? Which private investor is going to finance and operate a P3 bridge without absolute guarantees of safety? Which insurer is going to insure the risk once the bridge is operating with which exclusions and at what premium, assuming insurance can be obtained at all?
I understand that the borings are not yet completed and that more work and a report has to be completed. I am also told that the final report will then be subject to a "peer review" to ensure that the results are right.
Here is a nice definition of what a peer review is:
- "the evaluation of the conceptual and technical soundness of a design by individuals qualified by their education, training and experience in the same discipline, or a closely related field of science, to judge the worthiness of a design or to assess a design for its likelihood of achieving the intended objectives and the anticipated outcomes."
In other words, another group of people brought in to look over the work of the DRIC engineers and their consultants. There may have been other cases where this was done in the DRIC exercise to date but I do not recall any. I do remember the first public Schwartz Report being subject to a peer reveiw as well.
Peer review now. Unbelievable. Isn't this a cover-your-ass exercise since there could be a major problem? I can just imagine the fingerpointing if there is a catastrophic event down the road and trying to pin the blame on someone. A lawyer's retirement fund to be sure.
Imagine doing all of that work, spending countless millions on borings and taking all of that risk just so to try to take away the Ambassador Bridge business and then build another bridge at the same spot as the Enhancement Project with some other private investor.
You know what the excuse DRIC would give to build there if the Moroun family had sold out: downriver was not safe.
Isn't that why the Planning/Need and Feasibility Study way back in 2004 didn't toss out the Ambassador Bridge as a crossing and ranked it as high as the Central crossing. Why with the new DRIC road in place, it would be just as easy to make a right turn to go to the Ambassador Bridge for the last mile as it would to make a left turn and go to a DRIC bridge in salt mine territory!
Wasn't the right turn going to happen if the Morouns sold out? Isn't someone still hoping that this might still happen? What choice will there be when their best laid plans do not work out and reality sets in!
It's your move next Ambassador Wilson.