Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 02, 2007

Singing The Blue Water Bridge Blues





No wonder so many politicians and bureaucrats dislike the Ambassador Bridge Company. They know how to run a border crossing and they know how to do it properly. When you are spending your money and not taxpayer money, you have to do it right!

Here's what I mean. Our Mayor and his traffic guru thought nothing about spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a Horseshoe Road that would not have moved a single truck over the border more quickly. It is virtually the same concept, only spending fewer dollars, at the Tunnel Plaza. They are creating giant parking lots. They have no concept of how a border should be operating. They just don't seem to understand that the objective is not to create parking spaces.

If you think we have problems here, then you need to take a look at what is going on in Sarnia/Port Huron. I don't claim to know very much about that crossing. I have enough trouble trying to figure what is going on in Windsor. All that I know is that they have twinned Bridges, an expressway that leads right to the border crossing without stoplights and are competitors to us since many truckers have a choice as to which border crossing to use since their destination point is a equi-distant from both bridges.

In spite of all that, and even though their tolls are lower, Windsor is the border crossing choice for many of the truckers. It is the economics that is the determinant. If a truck can go through the Windsor border more quickly than sitting in line at the Blue Water Bridge at $125 per hour, then a trucker will come to Windsor. It seems that the Ambassador Bridge people are smarter in how they invest their revenues to keep the border flowing smoothly.

I won't quote again the US study that says that the Ambassador Bridge is the best crossing between Canada and the United States. I don't want to make the gentleman from the PBA who spoke at Brian Masse's "public authorities" meeting angry again.

Take a look at the story below from the Port Huron TimesHerald. There are many lessons that we can learn from it that are applicable in Windsor. I'll let you know what those lessons are after you have read the story:

  • Canadian ire pushes bridge plaza project
    Problems plaguing current facility first noted before 2000

    By MIKE CONNELL
    Times Herald

    The original call for expansion of the U.S. border plaza at the Blue Water Bridge didn't come from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security or any other state or federal agency.

    It came from Canada.

    "In November 1999, when the Gateway was reopened after twinning (the bridges) and renovation of the first span, several flaws with the American Plaza became apparent," Ontario lawmaker Roger Gallaway recalled in a 2005 letter to an MDOT official. "These design matters caused a restriction of Canadian traffic westbound into the United States."

    The design flaws contributed to miles-long traffic backups on Highway 402 in Sarnia. They also brought bitter complaints from Canadian officials, who complained the millions of dollars their nation had spent on the second span were in effect being wasted.
  • The second span opened in mid-1997. Its construction cost was nearly $80 million, with Canada chipping in $38.1 million. The two nations spent tens of millions more on engineering, design, environmental testing, insurance, plaza improvements, community relations and other ancillary costs.

    How the project began
    Gallaway's letter is one of dozens included in an appendix to the draft environmental impact statement for a proposed $433 million expansion of the American plaza. A public hearing on the document, which runs to more than 500 pages, is scheduled Tuesday at McMorran Place. The correspondence paints a vivid picture of how the project came about. It also provides insight into five years of bureaucratic infighting and occasionally heated debate.

    Among the revelations:

    Gallaway and Canadian transportation officials accused their Michigan counterparts of long refusing to address - or even to acknowledge - problems with the newly built American inspection plaza.

    Popular wisdom aside, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, apparently played little or no role in the original call for plaza expansion. Indeed, five years after the terror attacks, a top state official still questioned whether Homeland Security considered it a necessary project.

    "Finally, I want to emphasize to you that MDOT has concerns about whether the Blue Water Bridge Plaza project is a high priority for (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)," MDOT director Kirk Steudle wrote last year in a letter to U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township.

    "While CBP has indicated this project is in its five-year plan, the agency has not committed funds for this project and has informed MDOT it has no plans or money to increase staffing levels when the plaza expansion is complete," he continued. "As you know, a multi-million-dollar investment by the State of Michigan in a plaza not properly staffed will not solve the border-delay problem."

    CBP embraces project
    In the 15 months since Steudle wrote his letter, the friction between agencies appears to have been smoothed over.

    At public meetings last week, MDOT officials said CBP has embraced the project and given assurances it will staff inspection booths. The new plaza will have from 20 to 30 inspection booths, compared to 13 on the existing plaza.

    "CBP definitely is committed to this project," MDOT's Lloyd Baldwin said Friday in an interview at the agency's Port Huron field office. "CBP (employees) can't do what they're mandated to do because they only have 12 usable acres at the plaza."

    The new plaza will encompass 65 acres, he noted, which still is less than the minimum 80 acres requested by the federal government.

    Baldwin, a historian in MDOT's environmental section, said he wasn't sure if Canadian demands led to the plaza project.

    "I think there was probably a mutual understanding that our engineering solution wasn't what it could have been," he said, referring to the elevated American plaza built in the mid-1990s at a cost of more than $52 million.

    He said colleagues have told him the plaza built a decade ago was too small to accommodate the second span. Its size was constrained, he said, because officials didn't wish to evict London's Farm Dairy or move a major Detroit Edison substation.

    When the dairy closed five years ago, MDOT bought and cleared the property. The DTE substation, which supplies power to much of the city, is to be moved as part of the plaza expansion.

    "That's a fairly significant project," he said. "It's not a small thing."

    'Dysfunctional gateway'
    Correspondence suggests it was the Canadians who first realized the American plaza was not working.

    The second span opened in 1997, but it took another two years to restore and reopen the original span. Officials with the Blue Water Bridge Authority, which co-owns the bridge with MDOT, were dismayed when traffic backups only grew worse.

    Dan Elash, the authority's former president and chief executive, complained design flaws at the plaza were placing "a burden on the Canadian economy."

    "The present design of the port of entry in Port Huron was done by the Michigan Department of Transportation," Elash wrote last year in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration. "This design incorporated a 100% crossover weave at the international line, causing westbound gridlock on the bridge and rendering the gateway dysfunctional."

    The basic problem: Trucks rolled onto the bridge in the right lane. By the time they reached the other side, they needed to be in the left lane to enter inspection booths.

    "The Michigan Department of Transportation was slow to acknowledge this engineering flaw," Elash said, "and was even slower to acknowledge the concerns of Canada about MDOT's design."

    Engler promises inquiry
    Gallaway, who represented the Sarnia-Lambton riding in Canada's House of Commons from 1993 to 2006, traced the history of the project in a Nov. 17, 2005, letter to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    "The American Plaza's present design represents a restraint on trade that limits the throughput capacity on commercial goods and services moving into the United States from Canada on the twin spans," he wrote. "Until these design deficiencies are corrected, the full potential of the twinning of the Blue Water Bridge gateway cannot be realized."

    In the late 1990s, Gallaway said he shared his concerns with Gov. John Engler, who "made a commitment to my office and to Canada to correct this issue."

    Engler asked MDOT to investigate, and the agency promised to complete its study by 2004 and to have a solution in place by 2007.

    Gallaway, as chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport, had an influential voice in Canadian transportation issues. In 2005, he traveled to Washington and received a briefing from CBP officials.

    "What I have found is troubling," he told Granholm. "Today, I find myself having to revisit these issues and again having to start a dialogue with your good office to explore how we can find a solution that benefits both of our nations."

    Delays dismay Miller
    Across the border, similar frustrations were expressed by Port Huron's representative in Congress.

    "I must say I am serious dismayed by what appears to be a lack of direction or leadership from MDOT this far," Miller wrote in a June 27, 2006, letter to Kris Wisniewski, MDOT's project manager and a former Port Huron councilman who never hid his affection for the city or his desire to protect what he saw as its best interests.

    Miller noted the study originally was to have taken 24 to 36 months at a cost of $2.3 million. As of today, the study is expected to conclude in mid-2008 at a cost exceeding $15 million.

    "While all this has been taking place on the American side of the bridge, the Canadians have developed a $100 million plan to expand their plaza," Miller lamented. "They have acquired additional property, began construction of new lanes and have nearly finished their new buildings. All this is being done while we have conducted study after study and then debated their conclusions."

    Wisniewski left the project at the end of 2006. He has been replaced by two project managers, Paul McAllister and Matt Webb.

    State blames feds
    Three days after receiving Miller's letter, Steudle mailed his response and put the blame for the delays squarely on Homeland Security.

    "When MDOT began this study in 2002, we sought the active involvement of the then-U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service," he wrote. "Our efforts to engage these agencies in an active dialogue concerning infrastructure and border staffing needs were largely met by indifference and an unwillingness to discuss the issue.

    "For the past three years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the successor to the U.S. Customs Service, has been unwilling to provide critical information to our planning and engineering teams to help them design a new plaza that meets long-term inspection needs. The information CBP has provided has often been vague and contradictory, further complicating our planning and engineering challenge. This lack of engagement has resulted in a two-year delay in the environmental approval process."

    Steudle noted it took the intervention of Michigan's congressional delegation to convince CBP to commit a high-level staffer to the project.

    "However, it remains difficult to get answers from CBP in a timely manner," he wrote.

    He also told Miller: "In regard to your comment about the lack of direction or leadership from MDOT, we believe that just the opposite is true. MDOT has developed a clear plan, not only for the completion of the environmental study, but also for the design and construction of the project."

    Senators want answers
    The final letter included with the correspondence, dated less than two months ago, was signed by Michigan's two senators - Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
    The letter, sent to Robert Perez of CBP's regional office in Detroit, asks some remarkably basic questions given that it comes five years into the project. Among other things, the senators asked:

    How many acres does CPB require at the plaza? How will the acreage be used? How was the square footage of various buildings determined? How will each building be used? What are the agency's short-term and long-term needs in Port Huron? What is the timetable for the project?

    The senators also called on CBP and the General Services Administration to provide "a finalized written design plan" to Port Huron officials.

    "Local officials have expressed concern that the land taken for this project will exceed the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, and neighboring areas will be impacted unnecessarily," they wrote. "As the plaza is located within a residential and business district in a populated city, the city would like to insure that the size and scale of the footprint of the plaza will be kept to the minimum needed to fulfill the nation's security and commerce interests."

Here are some things I learned:

  1. It's strange isn't it that Canada has spent so much in Sarnia but has spent virtually nothing in Windsor to fix the road to the border even though $300 million was set in 2002 to do so. Can you figure out why nothing was done and now the BIF program has expired. Do you think it has something to do with the Ambassador Bridge and putting them out of business?
  2. Again it's strange that the Canadians are complaining that Michigan has done nothing to fix up their border problems in the Sarnia area while in Windsor, it is the Americans complaining about our lack of building a road to the border.
  3. Do you really want bureaucrats planning border crossings? If they can make such a mess in Sarnia/Port Huron, what would they do in both Windsor and Detroit with the creation of new plazas. Can you imagine two major truck Customs plazas tying into I-75 within a very short distance of each other.
  4. They have twinned Bridges and the major expressway leading to the border in Sarnia that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and they still have a disaster. Imagine what they would do with billions of taxpayer dollars on both sides of the river.
  5. Interesting comment about the Americans refusing to acknowledge problems with their design. No wonder Transport Canada created their Corridors and Gateway position paper. The future of our economy depends on fully functional border crossings. Didn't I tell you that this was what the border issue was all about and not about the DRIC bridge!
  6. Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT has made a mockery of spending billions of dollars on a new crossing when he wrote the following: "As you know, a multi-million-dollar investment by the State of Michigan in a plaza not properly staffed will not solve the border-delay problem." In other words, when the Bridge Company opened up four booths, it probably did more for clearing up the truck backup than building a new bridge that would merely serve as a new parking lot for trucks over the river. As I wrote a few days ago "It's the Customs, stupid."
  7. Using the Windsor logic, to solve the truck backup problem, a third bridge or a new tunnel should be built in Sarnia. Instead, they have learned from the Ambassador Bridge Company: "The new plaza will have from 20 to 30 inspection booths, compared to 13 on the existing plaza."
  8. Perhaps Senator Kenny's "Dirty little secret" is at play here and that can explain the delays ""The American Plaza's present design represents a restraint on trade that limits the throughput capacity on commercial goods and services moving into the United States from Canada on the twin spans."
  9. The consultants I'm sure are thrilled on both projects: "Miller noted the study originally was to have taken 24 to 36 months at a cost of $2.3 million. As of today, the study is expected to conclude in mid-2008 at a cost exceeding $15 million."

  10. Plaza size seems to be an issue as well as it is on the Windsor side of the Ambassador Bridge "Local officials have expressed concern that the land taken for this project will exceed the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, and neighboring areas will be impacted unnecessarily."
  11. If Canada has spent all that money on the new plaza, just wait until someone on the US side wakes up and says "let's have all the customs cleared on the Canadian side." Does that sound familiar?
  12. I wonder if the Bridge Company people would be interested in operating the Blue Water Bridge. It would be interesting to see what private enterprise could do!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Colours Commentary



Just some quick but colourful thoughts on some matters that interested me.

GREYFIELDS

I had never seen this term before until I saw it in Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG. Wikipedia describes this as
  • "economically obsolescent, outdated, failing, moribund and/or underutilized real estate assets or land. The term was coined in the early 2000s as a way to describe the sea of empty asphalt that often accompanied these sites."

    They include obsolete shopping malls or commercial strips that are typical in inner-suburban and urban neighborhoods.

Wow, that sounds like downtown Windsor to me......oooops, Downtown Mosaic I mean.

By the way, will it be confused with Windsor Mosaic? Did the ad agency that created another Mosaic know about http://www.windsor-communities.com/

  • "The Windsor Mosaic Project is funded by the Government of Canada. It is a Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Job Creation Partnership project."

What I find strange is the promotion by Gord Henderson of the Larry Horwitz dream for downtown yet the Mayor continues to allow massive non-downtown redevelopment without a negative word. The only comment seems to be let's build the big Engineering Complex downtown regardless whether it makes sense for the University or not.

Look what's not happening downtown:

  • no Farhi development for several more years at one of the key spots in downtown Windsor
  • no urban village after Beztac was chased out of town
  • the arena was moved to the East End so we can see redevelopment in that part of the City
  • no development at the Junction site
  • giveaway subleases at Canderel
  • dreaming of University students being the catalyst for a new downtown (Has anyone been to Wyandotte West recently?)
  • no fully occupied office towers and retail shops but huge vacancy rates in commercial real estate downtown

"WHITEWASH AUDIT"

What do I know about the costs of doing an audit? I thought that $150,000+ for the Grant Thornton audit was pretty good. At say, $200 per hour, that represents 750 hours of work. I assume that there will be a fair number of junior auditors involved at much lower rates and a senior auditor involved at a higher rate. So I was pretty hopeful that perhaps we might have an audit that will actually reveal something to us and answer some of the questions that are outstanding.

That was however until I saw what the Auditor General of Canada charges for value-for-money audits that it undertakes on behalf of the Government of Canada. You remember that is the kind of audit or forensic audit that citizens were looking for. One that goes below the surface of the finances and answer some questions raised as a result of what the Mayor said in Council.

Here is how the Auditor General of Canada describes their special examinations:
  • "A special examination is a type of value-for-money audit of a Crown corporation. It serves to provide an independent opinion to the board of directors on whether the corporation's financial and management control and information systems and management practices have been maintained so as to provide reasonable assurance that:

    --the assets of the corporation have been safeguarded and controlled;
    --the financial, human and physical resources of the corporation have been managed economically and efficiently; and
    --the operations of the corporation have been carried out effectively."

The Financial Administration Act requires the Auditor General "to disclose its costs incurred in preparing...special examination reports on Crown corporations."

Here are some of their costs:

  • "In 2005–06, the Office completed the special examination of eleven Crown corporations. The costs incurred were:

    Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
    $1,807,052

    Canadian Dairy Commission
    $514,653

    Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation
    $878,522

    Canadian Tourism Commission
    $773,000

    Cape Breton Growth Fund Corporation
    $294,188

    Laurentian Pilotage Authority
    $389,070

    National Gallery of Canada
    $563,404

    Old Port of Montreal Corporation Inc.
    $637,540

    Queens Quay West Land Corporation
    $99,254

    Ridley Terminals Inc.
    $377,957

    Royal Canadian Mint
    $617,591"
Do you see what I mean? $150,000 does not buy very much if one is looking for a value-for-money audit.


FIRE ENGINE RED

Watch out for the arsonists in the West End. I'm sure that you saw the story in the Windsor Star "Rash of arsons plague West End."

After the propety owner charge case, if I was a Member of Council, I would be very worried about my own personal liability if there was personal injury or property damage in one of the vacant homes or damage to their neighbours.

Yes yes yes, I know that it is all about the Ambassador Bridge Company and consistency. But after four fires over the past few months, one costing $75,000 and the other $50,000, there is a real risk to the public. This would give me a real chill if I was a Council Member:

  • "Tome said that once the list is complete, Windsor Fire and Rescue will sit down with other city departments " and come up with a plan to conduct some routine inspections."

Hardly a sense of urgency when it is said that patrols are needed.

It seems to me that what I would do is ensure that the Police department goes out there now to patrol the area to ensure that vandals do not cause further damage. I don't think that Council has the luxury of time. It is a very small area as well it appears so there is no excuse:

  • "Basically, the area that we're talking about, more or less, is around the bridge where there's a number of properties in a condensed area that are vacant."

Councillor Halberstadt put it in a way that his colleagues better listen:

  • "Obviously, arsonists are loose in that area."

    "I think council should become realistic. Where there are properties at risk, demolition should be allowed....

    (The bylaw) is actually accomplishing exactly opposite what it intended."

TURNING WINDSOR GREEN

It's the fifth, full-page advertisement in the Windsor Star.

The man who put the green in Greenlink is putting the green in the bank account of the major newspaper in town.

Is there a competition going on? Is our Mayor trying to outspend the former Mayor when he was buying all of those advertisements for DRTP?

What's interesting is that the result seems to be about the same. All that spending did very little for DRTP and not much more seems to be happening for the City if it has to beg people to sign up to approve Greenlink.

Trying to turning rail lands green didn't work for Mike Hurst and making Huron Church green won't work for Eddie either.

BLACKTOP

I happened to be driving on E C Row the other day and noted that asphalt had been laid on the Expressway exactly where there were overpasses over some city streets. I am very worried because I travel under the overpass on Dougall, you know the area, where the South Windsor Art Gallery is located.

As I believe I had blogged previously, I had seen the city workers tapping on the walls of the underpass presumably for safety reasons. As I told you before as well, there are some concerns about the safety of the overpasses:

  • "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."

    Is this engineering gobbledygook for there is a problem? Is there a risk to public safety? Is the asphalt being placed on top of the roadway to prevent further deterioration of the overpasseses?

It is my opinion that the Mayor and Councillors must tell us immediately if there are any problems.


PUTTING CHRYSLER IN THE BLACK

Who needs the Chrysler land on Pillette Road for an automotive plant. It's never going to happen.

I assume that the University has already made a phone call to Chrysler asking the company to donate the 164 acres for the Engineering Complex. Can you think of a better site and with a better partner? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Whether it's a donation or a good price for the property, Chrysler will do well out of it. That facility could be the center of an engineering renaissance for that Company and its automotive products.

Let me see now 164 acres of land for a cost of about $13.6 million or about $83,000 an acre. It is described as "The huge plant site -- which is rare in its proximity to the city core." Imagine if the City had any creativity what it could have done with that property for its new arena instead of putting it out in the east end somewhere.

What did the City pay for its arena land: $6 million for 30 or 40 acres or about twice as much and it will have to pay more for additional parking. And the Chrysler property has "all the services right to the road" so there would not be extra costs as there will be for the new arena in its East end location.

Let's assume that 60 acres would have been used for the arena and parking. If the city had bought the property they would have a hundred acres left so that it could create "shovel ready" land around the new and magnificent University Engineering Complex. Do you have any idea what land like that would be worth and how it could have been used to pay down the City's debt or to pay off the cost of watermains.

Did anyone from Administration actually consider that property and ask Chrysler if it was available or were they too busy looking in the East?

It will be interesting to see who buys the property. Very interesting.

Ending DRIC




It's very remarkable what happened.

The only Legislators who are doing what decision-makers are supposed to be doing are the members of the Michigan House and Senate. They don't "respect" the process the way our politicians do. When the process is out of control, they know enough when to pull the plug on it.

Contrast this with the powerful and recently re-elected Ontario Minister of Finance, our own Dwight Duncan.

  • "Duncan declined to speak specifically about the border.

    "We all want to get it fixed and we will," he stated."

Good old Dwight must have known that he was going to be promoted. He has been virtually invisible on Greenlink. He knows that only the Feds have put up money with respect to the road to the border and not the Province. The last significant thing that his office said with respect to Dwight and Greenlink was on October 20

  • "MPP Dwight Duncan (L--Windsor-Tecumseh) has not yet been fully briefed spokesman Steve Erwin said Wednesday."
If he had said anything, then as Minister of Finance, he would have had to put his money where his mouth was. Now we know why only Sandra did the talking. It does not matter what she says.

Back to Michigan. I have a copy of the Senate Journal which I believe has the provisions that were approved by both the Michigan House and Senate. Here are the relevant provisions:
  • MDOT is allowed to finish the DRIC study provided that finishing the study shall not bind Michigan in any way to construction or further action on any DRIC project recommendation

  • MDOT is prohibited from using funds beyond the normal completion of the study phase including not using monies for design engineering work, right-of-way acquisition, construction or expropriation activity

  • any additional spending to implement any recommendation of DRIC will require prior approval of the full Legislature
While that is pretty damaging itself, there is much more fun coming up that may require that I spend some time in Lansing to be able to provide commentary to you, dear reader. The Legislature shall hold hearings on the involvement of MDOT in DRIC in which MDOT shall present accounting of any DRIC project costs. I am sure that there will be some fascinating materials in the bills and accounts and some big surprises too.

Finally within 30 days of the date of the Act MDOT shall submit a report to the Legislature that identifies the source and use of all funds attributed to or expended in furtherance of the DRIC study or the border transportation partnership. It will include copies of all contracts and agreements and expenses from October 1, 2003 to June 30, 2007.

Do you think that someone is angry? Do you think that someone believes that taxpayers have paid through the nose and wants to know where the money went? Do you think that someone wants to understand why a Government Department would want to spend billions of dollars to build a new bridge when the existing operator is prepared to build a bridge at its own expense?

Can you imagine what will happen when the Legislators also start asking questions about the $430 million that MDOT wants to spend in Port Huron to fix up the Plaza there as well. I would not want to be the MDOT Director these days!

The significance from our perspective in Windsor and in Canada is what happens now? If one ties in this language along with the Senate Resolution and if the House passes a similar one and if the Governor prepares and delivers a letter saying that she supports the Enhancement Project, then isn't this over? I don't think it makes sense to build half a bridge does it.

We can only hope that our politicians would get some nerve and look after taxpayer interests too!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"We All Felt That There Is More To This Than We Know"

That was a line from the Dan Stamper interview on WJR radio yesterday. It was a very tough one, the strongest I have heard Dan Stamper give. You can hear it by double-clicking on the screen below.

There is no doubt that there was a tone of anger and frustration in his voice and in what he said. It must mean that the Bridge Company has found something out that has troubled them considerably. Here is the classic line that he used in the interview that is shocking with the poor state of the economy in Michigan and in our region that expresses exactly what I mean:
  • "It should not be this hard to spend a billion private dollars in the State of Michigan with the problems that are going on in the State of Michigan today."
He made some very serious allegations about what is going on in the border crossing matter that I think some people will find pretty startling. I must admit that it confirms my own "theories" that there is a plan designed to force the Ambassador Bridge out of business so that Governments can take over the running of the Windsor Detroit corridor, or rather take over ownership of the crossing and then lease it to a private operator for up to 100 years.

Stamper talks about the Budget fight in Michigan. He goes right after the Governor, MDOT and its Director. He claims that they have said that the Ambassador Bridge project is the best project but for Canada saying that they will not allow it to land in Windsor. Stamper states that Canada has never been quoted in saying that anywhere. He states that Transport Canada said everything but that in their meeting in Ottawa last week. Their position was that if the EA is correct Canada will not stop them from building their bridge!

He wonders why Michigan is "blaming Canada!"

Possible competition between MDOT and the Bridge Co. at the Blue Water Bridge Sarnia is given as a reason as to what is happening in Detroit. It is very similar to what is happening in Windsor where we have our Local Government as a competitor of the private operator. More information is given about the Enhancement Project and its advantages while discussing MDOT's failures at the border crossing at Sarnia/Port Huron. A new Plaza has to be built there at a cost about $450 million to correct the mistakes made. There is a discussion about the role of private enterprise and that private enterprise will do a better job than governments in these types of projects.

The most interestingly part is the seeming warming in relations between Canada and the Bridge Co. Can you believe it! The meeting in Canada must have gone very well with assurances apparently being given that the Government will treat the Bridge Co. fairly in the EA process here. Stamper accuses Michigan of mis-stating Canada's position!

If Stamper is right, and if the lies about the Plaza in Canada are recognized, then the Enhancement Project bridge is the #1 choice for both sides of the river. All that needs to be done then is build the road to that bridge. And Windsor and DRIC have followed now the course set by the Bridge Co. 5 years ago in how to build a road for trucks and how to connect communities!

Listen for yourself below by doubleclicking!



video







Michigan Senate Resolution



If you don't think that some Legislators have finally understood what is going on, then take a look at the Resolution that was passed last night by the Senate of Michigan concerning the border and the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project. When you read the wording of the Resolution, how could anyone possibly oppose it?

If only our elected officials in Canada at all levels would have this much sense.

I'll let you read it for yourself so that you can make your own interpretation of it. From what the newspapers have said as well, it looks like DRIC will only be given enough funds to complete their report and that's it. When I get a copy of the budget language, I shall post it.

Let's get real now. Given the Senate's language does anyone truly believe that a DRIC bridge can ever be built now.

Given the theorist that I am about the border, I cannot help but think that Transport Canada must have had an inkling about what might happen with the budget talks in Michigan. The timing of the meeting with the Bridge Company is remarkably coincidental.

Was Transport Canada hedging its bets? They appeared to be so cooperative with the Bridge Company based on what Dan Stamper said in his WJR interview.

If DRIC was allowed to continue, then Transport Canada would have been pleased. If DRIC was killed, it would be a calamity for Canada's trade with the United States and Transport Canada needed a backup. Their only backup realistically in southwest Ontario, since the Blue Water Bridge is such a mess, is the Bridge Company building their Enhancement Project. After all, the facts are that the Ambassador Bridge is the biggest land crossing between Canada and the United States by far and the best run as well.

There is just too much going on behind the scenes for anybody to try to figure out what is really happening. However, we seem to be coming to a climax pretty soon.

All I know is that the options are being eliminated. I believe that Transport Canada has finally figured out that they better be a player with the Ambassador Bridge Company or will be ignored as happened with the City of Windsor.

As well, there is a news report in Michigan that Senator "Cropsey also asserted that as part of the deal Gov. Jennifer Granholm expressed her support for the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge."

Now if we could only get that damned road to the Ambassador Bridge built, thousands of jobs created and some economic development for this region!
  • Senators Cropsey, Bishop and Hardiman offered the following resolution:

    Senate Resolution No. 123
    .

    A resolution to support the plan of the Detroit International Bridge Company to establish an enhancement span to the Ambassador Bridge and to urge the Michigan Strategic Fund and U.S. and Canadian authorities to take certain actions regarding this project.

    Whereas, The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor exemplifies efficiency and solid security practices that a private and public partnership can provide to the citizens of Michigan, the United States, and Canada and has been recognized by the United States Federal Highway Administration as the most efficient international crossing; and

    Whereas, The Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) crossing plan to develop an enhancement span of the Ambassador Bridge would provide for an additional crossing between the cities of Detroit and Windsor to meet the traffic needs of the region for years to come; and

    Whereas, The DIBC has stated it will work with the state of Michigan to leverage the private investment used in the creation of an enhancement span to help garner $2 billion in match funding to be used to improve Michigan’s roads and bridges by qualifying DIBC expenditures as toll credits under federal law; and

    Whereas, The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study, being carried out by the Michigan Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, calls upon the need for an additional span and continues to study alternate sites for a new bridge, while private investors are willing to construct and operate a second crossing to be financed without expense to the taxpayer; and

    Whereas, The state of Michigan has made a significant investment to improve the traffic flow to the current Ambassador Bridge through initiatives such as the Gateway Project to address traffic flow from the freeway and interstates to the Ambassador Bridge, as well as improving the plaza to accommodate international commerce;

    now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate,

    That we support the plan of the Detroit International Bridge Company to establish an enhancement span to the Ambassador Bridge;

    and be it further Resolved,

    That we urge the Michigan Strategic Fund to immediately approve an Inducement Resolution for Private Activity Bonds for the DIBC enhancement span and Gateway connections to the Ambassador Bridge;

    and be it further Resolved,

    That we urge both the United States and Canadian governments to expedite the permits to complete the DIBC enhancement span to allow for the second crossing to become operational in a timely fashion;

    and be it further Resolved,

    That we urge that the DRIC study recognize and support the DIBC’s plan to develop an enhancement span;

    and be it further Resolved,

    That we recommend that the Canadian government finish the improvements to alleviate traffic flow concerns in Windsor from Canadian Highway 401 to the Ambassador Bridge;

    and be it further Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Michigan congressional delegation, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Ontario Parliamentary delegation, the mayor of Detroit, and the mayor of Windsor.

Room At The Junction


It looks like there is no room at the inn for any of the new Mexican refugees were coming to Windsor. This is according to Ronna Warsh, general manager of social services. Now that was a big surprise to me given that the vacancy rate in Windsor is so high. I would have thought that there are lots of houses and apartments for rent and probably at a pretty good rental rate too.

So I got to thinking and wondered if there was a location in Windsor where some of these refugee families could live and eat until such time as homes could be found for them .


And then it hit me. Why not use the Junction for this. I have attended a couple of press conferences there and attended the luncheon where the proceeds went to Hospice. It has a huge amount of space where dormitory beds could be set up or perhaps walls could be set up for families. It has facilities that can feed hundreds of people. I'm certain that proper washroom and shower facilities could be added very simply.

I would have thought that this would work and could end any disagreements between the Junction's owners and the City.

My feeling is that that City should seriously consider this as an alternative. Here's why. Remember that Globe and Mail story the other day that I posted. It said:
  • "Now some Windsor residents worry the loonie's climb will leave this border city even more dependent on its "sin economy" - the casino, bars and strip joints - an economy that's causing some Windsor citizens to fear going downtown at night."

Then I am sure that you saw the Star story that said:

  • "If you have the entertainment that brings them over, it doesn't matter," said Renaldo Agostino, marketing director for the strip clubs Cheetahs, Leopards and Danny's. "The more expensive American dollar never stopped Canadians from going to America. Whenever I was going over, it was for something I couldn't get here. It's not going to stop them either."

    Agostino said a lower-valued dollar, our drinking age and that full nudity thing -- which is forbidden in U.S. strip clubs -- are not downtown Windsor's only assets."

While they may not be our only assets but they seem to be some pretty damn good ones for some of the American visitors that come over here on the weekend.

Now I got to thinking again about the zoning for the Junction. My belief is that the zoning does not prohibit a sex club from opening up nor a massage parlour.

Can you imagine, there could be dancing at the Junction, lap dancing. Who the heck would care if there was music or not with dancing like that! So that kind of activity cannot be prohibited by the Entertainment Lounge Bylaw. And I'm sure that you read the story as well about the court case in Newmarket that said that a certain activity during a "full body massage is not a sexual act and does not constitute prostitution."

In this case, unlike previously, the Junction owners should have the support of both of the Ward 2 Councillors. Both Councillors Jones and Postma voted to approve an adult entertainment parlour at the Wellington ie a gay strip bar and at the same Council meeting voted against the Junction becoming an "Entertainment Lounge." In fact, Brian Masse should also support the new activity, even though it is very near his home, since he was at the Council meeting and did not oppose the Wellington application.

Even Ms Warsh could get involved too. I bet she might be able to get some provincial money to train some of the Mexican refugees who are on social assistance for a new career just as she did for the Sutherland call centre workers who were on the Ontario Works program.

Don't forget as well that Windsor kicked in $100K for the call centre training too and is building them a parking lot. That's is about equal to what Eddie says the Mexican immigration issue is costing us BEFORE the Senior Levels pay us back the vast majority of the costs!

I wonder if one took a poll amongst the Junction neighbours and offered them the choice between a place where refugess could live temporarily or becoming Sin City West, which one they would prefer.

An Entertainment Lounge might look better and better very soon.

DRTP Truck Expressway Or...


Oh that the Mayor of ours is such a kidder. He's got such a funny sense of humour.

If you watched the video of the scrum of the Mayor on the Windsor Star website, you will see the Mayor making a comment that DRTP has been talking with a number of Councillors about their new proposal.

Surprisingly, but not really, the Mayor chose not to tell us what the conversations were about. Do you think that was deliberate to scare people along the DRTP corridor to send in right away their approval notice of Greenlink? Do you think that the Mayor is desperate to get up his approval numbers?

He could, of course, have said that it had nothing to do with the truck expressway but that it had everything to do with a doublestack rail tunnel that it appears DRTP has been pushing. But that would be too simple. And in Windsor, nothing is ever simple or what it appears to be on its face.

I noticed some lobbying statistics for DRTP in the US for 2006. It is of course not clear to me whether these costs are for the truck tunnel or for the rail tunnel project or both. It is just strange to me that they have two different accounts but that could just be an anomaly depending on how the Lobbyist firm set up the account.
I'm sure however that we will hear from Mike Hurst very, very soon. After all, they would not be spending lobbying money for nothing now would they.

It will probably turn into something involving the Zalev lands as well since that subject and Brownfields have been in the news and at Council recently. If you hear something about rail rationalization soon, then it's a slam-dunk.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It Does NOT Add Up


OMG, fer sure man, that latest City Greenlink ad is really cool and totally awesome. Like gross, someone had to stay up late at night doing all that math. Barf me out, I would've been freakin'. I would not have stayed up crunching numbers when I could've partied instead. What a bummer.

Another full-page ad in the Windsor Star thanks to the deep pockets of the taxpayers of Windsor. Don't you worry, I know it wasn't budgetted for, but money is no object, especially taxpayer money, when the careers of certain Members of Council are at stake.

I'm not quite sure how seven years fit into all this. I knew there were previous discussions but I must admit that I would have thought this border issue started in November/December of 2002 when the Joint Management Committee report came out publicly.

Eddie has this Mike fixation it seems. Eddie just had to drag ex-Mayor Mike Hurst into this mess as well didn't he so he can share in the blame. However, whether it is five years or seven years, it really doesn't matter. Who was the Mayor for most of that time and who was elected to solve the problem? Our fearful leader, Eddie!

Did you notice that the tone of the ad was one of desperation? As I tried to point out, the number of people approving Greenlink is not very impressive. For all the money being spent, it looks like a lot of people aren't convinced that Greenlink is realistic or doable. They understand the game that is being played and are tired of being used as pawns.

It's been opened up to the entire County of Essex now and not just to Windsorites. After all, Warden Santos has to do something to help out his new, bestest buddy. Why that's regional cooperation at its finest, except for Big Box stores. Maybe now LaSalle's Mayor Baxter will support Greenlink. (As a Letter to the Editor said "Maybe some day you [Baxter] might need the help of Windsor's residents for one of your projects.")

Speaking of things being added up, it looks like some numbers were missed. I'm not quite sure how they would fit in with the message being conveyed in the ad. Let me tell you what some of them are to be helpful:
  1. $300 million of Border Infrastructure Fund money not used to build a road to the border

  2. billions of dollars sitting around waiting for this Mayor and Council to put forward a cooperative proposal and not a proposal designed to counter

  3. 10,000 direct and indirect, high-paying jobs not created

  4. $3.5 million paid to lawyers and consultants

  5. one year wasted on THINKING BIG

  6. almost two years wasted on FULL TUNNELLING

  7. how many more months to be wasted on GREENLINK

  8. four full-page ads in the Windsor Star so far, five Ward meetings, mailing to thousands of households

  9. many radio ads

  10. 98% of the Windsor population not sending in notices of approval of what is being proposed

I just figured out what this all added up to:

TOTAL INCOMPETENCE AND

TOTAL FAILURE

PS. Now I don't want to be an old stick in the mud. However, I think someone should tell the really cool and very hip advertising agency of the City that their numbers are all wrong. I think they forgot about leap year and the extra day that is added. You know, an extra day of stalling, 24 extra hours of snubbing the Senior Levels of Government and threatening them with lawsuits, 1,440 minutes of asking why no one listens to Windsor.

Do you feel me?

Forced Congestion As A Buy-Out Tool




There's something about Greenlink that just bothers me. Oh I know that it is really nothing more than another "starting point" in the Mayor's non-negotiable bargaining position. As the Mayor said in the Star:

  • "Francis said details of the Schwartz plan, such as service roads and landscaping, can be tweaked, but the city will not negotiate the proposed tunnels with DRIC.

    "That last thing we want is for the province to come back and say: 'OK, we'll give you one tunnel,'" he said. "The amount of tunnelling and the connectivity of neighbourhoods is not negotiable."

To be direct about it, the Mayor has just said he's prepared to negotiate even right after the public made comments on his latest newly revised and improved Schwartz plan. Councillor Halberstadt should immediately object and claim that the Mayor has compromised (oooops, there's that C-word again) in exactly the same way that he was unfairly criticized for doing that.

I'm still waiting to find out how the City is allowed to negotiate partial tunneling under the Resolution that calls for full tunneling. I wonder if Counselor Marra could explain that. Oh it really doesn't matter. Eddie will ignore whatever it is that he wants to ignore. Hmmmm, I wonder if this is a breach of the Code of Conduct that Council wants approved so that I can make a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner. Now that should be fun.

That's what makes me really nervous about all this. I'm not been impressed with Eddie's negotiating skills such as the other deals that he has been involved like the Canderel subleases, the Mady garage, the five cent parking fees and who knows what on the East End arena.

But it is more than that. I can't really figure out why Sam stopped at the expressway and why he didn't go further with the road right to the bridge. Oh I know the excuse, we have to wait to see where DRIC is going to place the Plaza and the border crossing:

  • "Until the site of the new bridge and plaza is determined, the exact path of the easternmost portion of the highway leading to it can't be known. "All we can say is that road will feed into the plaza."

    The city wants the plaza located on 110 acres it owns in Brighton Beach."

However I don't buy that.

The most obvious explanation for the not going further is that would mean that the cost for Sam's road would have to be increased. Since Sam has not done any work north of EC role, then the cost that he has set out for Greenlink ought to not be compared with the DRIC numbers which I believe are the costs right to the border.

But I don't think it is that either.

What I think is a connection north of EC role is designed to be the last-ditch effort to put the Ambassador Bridge out of business. The road to the border is being done a step at a time and my belief is that it is an effort by all of the three governments combined, Federal, Provincial and Municipal. Oh sure they may fight and scream amongst themselves like children but that is just so that each one can get an advantage over the other parties. All three are united in wanting to block the Ambassador Bridge Company.

The object is to build a variation of the DRIC road to the new bridge to remove as many trucks from going north on Huron Church Road as possible. Even the million or so local international trucks will be encouraged not to use that road. If that happens, or it seems to be happening, won't that put a squeeze on the Ambassador Bridge company that might force them to sell out?

How will that be done? Very simply.

If you remember the drawing that was shown in Sam's first presentation of "Huron Church “Boulevard” – The Champs Elysèes of Canada," the road in that drawing only showed two lanes north and south and not three. It showed a nice bicycling lane and a walkway for pedestrians that must have taken over one lane of traffic. If that doesn't show the City's perspective, then nothing does. Now perhaps the reason why the City is opposed, and has been opposed for the last five years, to any plan on Huron Church road is becoming clearer.

Brain Masse in his Detroit radio debate with Dan Stamper confirmed that the road was the big issue and nothing else:

  • "it doesn’t take away the main problem – that’s going to and from the border crossing in the Detroit-Windsor region and that’s important to note...

    you still have the problem of the trucks and the cars can’t get to the 401. And that, at the end of the day, that’s the real problem. That’s why there’s been such discussion in our community over the years to come up with a, something that’s going to be healthy for the local area, as well as, the flow of the traffic through our region and that is important for the rest of the United States and the rest of Canada, but also is important for our regional economy...

    once again it just comes down to the bottom line of how do you get to the through traffic from the 401 that needs to go there and also capacity for local businesses and also more importantly, to our commuters."

Ontario Minister Cansfield has has made her contribution to the road issue:

  • "It will be in mid 2007 when a decision for a preferred bridge location will be made and Ontario will say how to get from 401 to there

    The Schwartz Report fitted in with the Province’s planning since all was accepted other than the Horseshoe Road and going through Ojibway ("Information input into their study") ie 2 KM difference at Todd Lane

    People on Huron Church don’t want to mingle with heavy trucks.

    The Government's stated objective was to separate long-haul traffic from local traffic

    They want to have Huron Church as a viable business section again and to maintain economic viability ie have it as a commercial route for tourists, attractions, dinner

    The avoidance of large vehicles on that route is a huge and legitimate issue

    People have had difficult times along that stretch of highway

    Preferred route is a freeway with NO driveways off of it."

Transport Minister Cannon on Melanie Deveau's show just had to come back and talk about the road during his interview when he said:

  • "And of course the Government of Ontario is a partner as well as the Town of Windsor and so we have to be able to, I think, be open minded, listen to everything that has to be said and at the end of the day of course, we are going to make the decisions with the Government of Ontario on the specific design and the architecture of the road. But as I was mentioning this morning in the press conference, you know, I am a former town councillor and so I am always more sensitive to concerns that are brought up by people living in this area. The Ambassador Bridge, I come back to that Melanie just for a second, it is an important issue because you know there is the environmental assessment that they want to do, but at the end of the day there is also the fact that this access road will be going directly through the city of Windsor and I am not, I am not necessarily convinced that that is the right way and the right approach to take."

Clearly the "road to the bridge" is the last gasp of the Governments. Every other tactic from traffic numbers to security and redundancy to plaza size etc. etc. has failed. It is all so transparent and Sam's omission just confirmed what I already believed. As I wrote before,

  • "Effectively, the Minister has given the City the blessing to reduce the lanes on Huron Church, just do it in the name of a greening effort. Create gridlock on Huron Church to discourage trucks from using it to go to the Bridge. You want to go the twinned bridge? Sure, just be prepared to sit on a one-lane narrow road for an hour or more. Truckers will say the heck with that and go to the bridge that has a six-lane highway leading to it.

    Why how can the Bridge Co. sue...they still have their road! It's not the Government's fault if truckers choose a different way to cross the border. It's the law of competition isn't it! It is a scorched earth tactic designed to scare the Bridge Co."

Unfortunately, Sam's presentation really did ruin everything. Why the man said that what the Ambassador Bridge people did before was right. You could build a road along Huron Church that could be used for traffic and could connect the communities. If we take Sam's logic to its conclusion, then a road could be built on Huron Church right to the Ambassador Bridge. If his concept worked south of E C Row, it could be built north of the E C Row too. Now that is not what the Mayor and Windsor Council want but that is what Sam gave them.

And as for the Senior Levels, they are going to have a tough time explaining why the $300 million BIF funds were never used as an intermediate solution to connect Highway 401 to the Ambassador Bridge. After all, that is what the money was supposed to be used for.

Come on now, the DRIC road can be built right to the Ambassador Bridge and everybody knows it. There is no reason why it could not have been built before now since the road could go both to the Ambassador and to a new DRIC bridge if it was ever to be built. The only reason obviously is to pressure the Bridge Company.

I wonder what will happen after that. When the Governments have lost their negotiating position to their opponent, will sanity finally prevail?

Just so you will get a better idea why Sam's 2 lanes are critical on Huron Church and why nothing was mentioned about it during Greenlink, take a look at this story about Australia. Don't you just love it. Keeping trucks away from the Ambassador Bridge is the only way a DRIC Bridge could survive too because its tolls would be several times higher unless taxpayers subsidized it:

  • "Profit over Practicality? Lane Cove Tunnel Sydney

    The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story recently which gave a glimpse into the congestion problems suffered by Sydney residents. The Lane Cove Tunnel is entirely dependent on government-created congestion to turn a profit...

    The original idea was for the NSW government to deliberately create congestion on nearby Epping road (by narrowing lanes) to force motorists onto the tunnel. It was election time when the plan was meant to go ahead and hence someone in power realised this was not going to be popular and currently the plans have been delayed.

    The delay has meant the NSW government has had to pay $25 million dollars of tax payer money to the toll road owners for not honouring its contractual obligations (to narrow Epping road).

    Of course narrowing Epping road isn’t what the government will call this, the idea is to build dedicated bus and bicycle lanes which would then create the desired level of congestion for Lane Cove Tunnel. The plan will still go ahead in February next year."

Monday, October 29, 2007

The 69 Questions Sam & Eddie Must Answer




With all of the taxpayer money being spent to gain approval of Greenlink, I thought you might be interested to know what some readers of the Windsor Star have to say about Greenlink from the opposite side.

Here is why I decided to post the comments. Obviously we've heard about the huge percentages in favor of the Schwartz Git-R-Done solution. Except the reality is that only a small number of Windsorites have given their approval as I pointed out this morning. When I went to the Star Forum website, I expected to see almost everything being favorable to Greenlink. Imagine my surprise when I saw all of these negative comments.

Where are these comments being reflected, certainly not by the Mayor or even by the Star itself?

Accordingly, I decided to give them an outlet. I've no idea how many hits the Star's website gets. When Don McArthur said that he had "seven" readers, I knew he was kidding but my suspicion is that the total numbers are significantly less than the Star's circulation.

This is from "Sound Off! Will Schwartz's plan make Windsor the envy of other North American cities?"



  1. The Sam Schwartz tunnel doesn't look like a tunnel at all. It looks more like the below grade proposal with a bit of dirt on top. Besides that the Sam Schwartz tunnel will be in sections not one complete tunnel which is similar to the below grade proposal which also has some tunneling parts.

  2. Looking at the Sam Schwartz tunnel it would still have a major disruption on the business section.

  3. Schwartz proposal would send all the provincial engineers back to the drawing board for another five years.

  4. So the guy who wanted to pave Ojibway Park in 2005 has morphed into Mr. GreenLink in 2007

  5. $500,000 for proposing slighty longer and narrower tunnels than the DRIC plan!

  6. First of all its too expensive, second, why does Windsor have to have a "tunnel freeway".

  7. As for the pollution the trucks generate, the root of the problem comes from the trucks backed up because American customs are slow to process them

  8. what if there is a major accident, and/or involving dangerous chemicals and flammables or even a terrorist attack

  9. what if the tunnel sustains major damage, think of the traffic mess that would generate.

  10. The DRIC team was called on the carpet and criticized for not proposing a vented tunnel with scrubbers that would magically clean and purify the air. They told us that this technology didn't exist, but we beat them up anyhow. So, Sam, Eddie, where are the scrubbers and air cleaners in your proposal

  11. Why does the tunneled route from the 401 not split, one way toward the new bridge, and the other to the Ambassador Bridge? Trucks will continue to take the Ambassador Bridge because of the likely cheaper (and competitive) tolls, which will mean they will still be on our city streets without a tunneled route.

  12. when are people gonna realize that if a road goes underground or not underfround it has the same environmental impact, jut hiding things underground doesnt make anything disapear.

  13. would you ever want to relocate your children near a park that is built on top of a highway

  14. it still wont lure Windsor's image. It might create a few people who want to drive through it once

  15. it will be an eyesore after a few months.

  16. There is no perfect plan except to open all the booths that run at 50% at the bridge.

  17. There seems to be a new plan every few months by the various governements

  18. This plan is designed for a wow factor - yes - great. But how realistic is it?

  19. No scrubbers, except that the City has criticised the DRIC for not having scrubbers.

  20. Narrower lanes. If 4 lanes are all that are needed, why is the city of Windsor stating Huron Church Road - 6-lanes - are not adequate for the Ambassador Bridge.

  21. No solution for the existing border crossing presented.

  22. Who will pay for the maintenance of the green spaces, tennis courts etc. and/or construction? The FEDS have committed to 50% of the cost of the ROAD. The city can barely afford to maintain their parks as it is, let alone MORE parkspace.

  23. If trees can "scrub" the emissions, what is the point of such long tunneled sections? Clearly, air quality is not the huge concern it has been made out to be.

  24. What about Sandwich area? Are they not worthy what South Windsor is getting? Sandwich will now be "sandwiched" between TWO border highways and TWO bridges.

  25. This plan sounds better but the concerns that remain are the traffic volume, air quality and how the city will maintain all the open green areas.

  26. This problem goes way beyond dressing up Huron Church Rd.

  27. It makes me wonder why the city is so intent on getting trucks off Huron Road when they don't seem to mind the trucks using the Tunnel and going thru the middle of down town.

  28. Make a link to the existing bridge - otherwise you will have trucks taking local steets to take advantage of low toll rates at the existing bridge

  29. Let the bridge company build a new bridge and they will absorb all the cost.

  30. Where are the details of this plan?!? The guys Sam/Eddie have trotted in here are the guys [involved in]the Big Dig - a project that went $10 billion over budget!

  31. The Windsor plan and the DRIC plan are, except for a few points, the same thing. Who's kidding who? Everybody managed to waste a lot of money that we, as taxpayers can't afford

  32. It was still a mistake not to include Ambassador with a split at E.C. Row as others suggested. It could be tunneled up to Ambassador too for more cost, but DRIC is ignoring Ambassador too

  33. Tunnels to nowhere. Both the dric and this new greenway do not address the fact they are leading to a bridge that is not built. Where will Michigan want a bridge to come out? Michigan is nearly broke and will not help fund a new bridge and they dont care about our problems

  34. We have barely enough money to maintain our existing parks. Where is the money going to come from to maintain these new parks? How many more parks and natural areas do we need on the west side?

  35. widen and upgrade EC Row Expressway and extend Lauzon Parkway out to the 401 and beyond to Highway 3.

  36. What magical solution is there to ensure that only local traffic uses the Ambassador bridge

  37. The city's proposal is lacking details - substantial ones that bring to question the over cost-advantages

  38. Where is traffic routed during the construction of these tunnels?

  39. Why are there no maintenance tunnels shown in the "short tunnels?"

  40. Where is the emergency access/egress from these tunnels and what is the minimum distance required between emergency entrances?

  41. What fireproofing designs are anticipated?

  42. Where are the pumping stations to pump out water from the tunnels?

  43. Where do these pumping stations empty into?...

  44. What about relocations of all the underground utilities along Huron Church Road such as hydro, gas, water mains, and sewer lines?

  45. How does the plan propose dealing with the high water table in the area and potential leaks?

  46. How does the plan deal with the substandard soil conditions in the area?...

  47. What state of the art rail tunnel is Sam Schwartz talking about for the relief of traffic post-2035?

  48. How will tunnels be expanded should traffic volumes increase beyond what is expected?

  49. Who will pay for the maintenance of parkland and tree replacement - studies indicate that pollution kills trees - notably particulate matter and nitrous oxide.

  50. Maybe if Tecumseh just starts building a tunnel maybe we might decide on which one we want, worked for a arena!

  51. The DRIC proposes something that they know no one will accept and then Windsor pays an additional half milllion to basically expand on the DRIC idea.

  52. So much for not accepting anything less than a fully tunelled route.

  53. Are Jet Fans a fancy word for scrubbers or will they simply push the polluted air out of the covered portions back onto the neighborhoods?

  54. score one for south windsor but nothing for the far west end.

  55. There are so many unexpected and hidden expenses to come, it's common sense to anyone with half a brain. This candy coated "paradise proposal" is the "Shock and Awe" campaign for Windsor. I'm glad to see the residents aeren't falling for it.

  56. I guess our taxes can forever skyrocket, and the city can hire a whole new slew of people to maintain our hippy gardens

  57. To be honest I thought , WOW, finally a plan excelling all others by promoting large attractive green spaces , plus useable for all ages and environmentally correct. A real bonus. Then I start reading the comments . So many cons that my elation got deflated.

  58. Too much money has been spent and nothing ever get's accomplished.

  59. All back to square one when you think too much

  60. the delays are not related to border crossing capacity. Border delays occur because the current system for clearing shipments into the USA combined with the USA's demand for tight border security is why the border backs up.

  61. The Ambassador Bridge should be replaced with a new span because the current span is nearing the end of its designed service life. The owner is willing to do it on his dime. Let him.

  62. We already have a corridor through the west side, Huron Road. Use the $1.5 billion dollars to improve that corridor. Capacity is not a factor, traffic volumes will not increase considerably into the future. Do not be fooled by economists and politicians that preach unending economic growth.

  63. A new border crossing will not spur investment in this region. A border crossing that bypasses the city will expedite shipments to eastern Ontario and the new auto capital of Canada, Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge

  64. The State of Michigan is threatening to stop funding MDOT contributions to DRIC because Lansing has recognized DRIC for what it has become a tax dollar sink hole.

  65. Another crossing only means that US Customs will have fewer agents at each crossing.

  66. The money can be spent to impove the quality of an existing corridor to the benefit of those that drive it, do business along it and live near it.

  67. you want your kids playing in a park with jet fans blowing fumes and brake dust on them. Not me!

  68. Pick one people. DRIC or the city plan and make it quick, 'cause there is a third option... Hwy 402 from London to Sarnia which means totally bypassing Windsor. If we can't come up with a solid decision on one or the other and if we put up enough flak in the air about both proposals, the Feds and the province are simply going to wash their hands, turn their back on us and pump all the money into the 402 Sarnia corridor.

  69. The simple fact is there will be the same fumes bellowing out of the openings of all these tunnels as there is now, they think by adding 5 billion plants that they will filter the air enough to couter act the polution, that is perpoustous.

Whew, not a bad list of issues prepared by non-engineering types. Imagine what professional engineers would ask of Sam and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Perhaps we should give this to Sam to answer but then again I wouldn't want to have to spend another half million of taxpayer dollars to do so.

My point in setting out all of this information is just to let you know not to believe everything you hear from City Hall about the support of Windsorites for Greenlink. With flaws like this, can anyone take the Mayor's solution seriously or should we just view it as another stall tactic.

Can some of Sam's work be used, sure. Can some of DRIC's work be used, sure. Can some of the Ambassador Bridge's work be used, sure again.

We won't have a solution however in Windsor when Sam's work is used to "counter" that of DRIC and when the Ambassador Bridge is viewed as the enemy. We won't have a solution in Windsor when Governments believe that they can force the Ambassador Bridge out of business instead of recognizing that this Company has made this border crossing the most important in North America and the key border crossing for Canada's economy. We won't have a solution in Windsor when the parties involved refuse to sit down and talk to each other.

Is there a border solution? Of course there is and it was reachable years ago. It is the one that has been proposed all the way along except we mere taxpayers have not been a let in on it. It's just like in Sarnia where all the studies in the world wound up with a bridge not upriver or downriver but right at the existing crossing. And Governments built expressways to serve those two bridges.

That has always been the solution and we are just going through an exercise designed to force the sale of a "private" business.

Observations




Here are a few observations from recent events in Windsor.

SINK OR SWIM TOGETHER

WeACT is on the City's in camera agenda on Monday I have heard. OMB litigation and all of that.

Funny, I would have thought that the Mayor, Councillors and the citizens ought to be on the same side in opposing a Provincial whitewash audit. After all, don't we all want to know the truth. Hmmmm do you think that maybe some don't.

I wish I could be there to hear what they talk about. Do you think someone might actually say that the audit from the Ministry is a total and complete farce now that we know what the Terms of Reference are. Councillor Halberstadt might but his colleagues will not listen to him.

Will Councillor Marra stand up and say that it is a whitewash and that Council should object since that is not what Mayor, Council and Windsor citizens want. He had said that the Ministry should be given a chance to do their audit and then decide if more has to be done once their report is in! Isn't it painfully obvious now that "more has to be done?" Naw, if he won't do it on his tunneling Motion and fight for a full tunnel as the Motion says, he won't do it here either.

Our Municipal elected officials supported in their Resolution a much broader Section 10 audit which the Minister of Municipal Affairs refused to include as part of the package. They should be outraged and demand it be undertaken since we are spending over $150,000 on the audit.

Oh come now. You cannot be that naïve. Don't you think the Members of Council were told to stick together in a unified fashion so that they can all survive together. They are just going to tough their way through it. And be thrilled when they are exonerated.

NO BOOKS AVAILABLE AT THE LIBRARY FOR CIRCULATION

Sometimes I cannot really believe what the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget says. Someone really does need to muzzle him or at least make him think before he opens his mouth.

He is a member of the Library Board. Libraries, in case you didn't know it, dear reader, are primarily in the book business. They also provide computers, the new way that information is distributed, to those members of the community that do not have access to one They buy books so that they can circulate them to members of the Community. They buy computers for information distribution.

So what is the former Councillor Budget's solution to their budget cutting:
  • "Instead of following board member Coun. Dave Brister's plan to save $742,000 by making cuts to various library operations -- such as buying fewer books and computers than planned...

    Brister, who opposed four library board motions involving the $652,000 cost-cutting package, said afterward his plan would have worked and services did not have to be affected.

    "It could have been done entirely without closing."

I have to admit that Councillor is absolutely right. Using his logic, in a few years, the Library System would not have purchased any books or computers and their shelves would be bare and the PC terminals hopelessly out of date for the new technology.

No computers and no books mean that no one would ever go to the Library anymore. They could stay open, "entirely without closing," but no one would show up. Imagine the savings that could be made then!

We should not be surprised however at how the Councillor thinks about cutting. Wasn't he the one that said that the Art Gallery should sell the works of art that were not hanging on the walls of the Gallery to help reduce costs?

But it's okay, we can have a premier sports facility and he can support spending money for Detroit sports extravaganzas.

CANDEREL LEASE

Whew....thank goodness all of the space has now been rented out.

I wonder what the total cost to the City taxpayers will be just for subleases. Don't forget in your calculations the $580,000 to renovate third-floor office space at 1 Riverside Dr. W., and $350,000 for renovations on the fourth floor. I think the City was prepared to spend $20 per square foot on build out costs.

I am having some difficulties in figuring out what the Mayor says the loss to the City will be on the monthly rents. Remember that I wrote a BLOG on the "Deal of the Century."

I speculated on the following on the subleases:

  • unbelievably low rent for the initial term of the lease to get rid of the asset

  • huge payments for leasehold improvements and renovations where little work is required to be done

  • sweetheart renewal deal for a very long term

  • nice deal on monthly costs including how tenant space is calculated

  • deal on escalators for price increases

I guess we will have to wait until someone at City Hall decides to open up the books before we can find out the real information.

However, I just don't understand the Mayor's numbers, just like I never understood his numbers on the watermain Levy presentation he made at Council.

In the Star story about this matter, it was written:

  • "Even though the two floors have been rented, only about 55 per cent of the city’s costs will be recovered, leaving the city still to pay about $450,000 in rent each year, Francis said.

    The average lease rate for both floors is $23.70 per square foot, he said."

How can that possibly be? I had blogged previously the City's ad for the Canderel space [December 15, 2005 "Your Tax Dollars At Work"] and had written:

  • "Remember I told you that the sub-lease rental was slashed to $10 per square foot because the City could not get anyone interested in subletting the space. (The Star reported the City was paying $18 per square foot plus about $15 in common fees for maintenance and taxes) Does that mean that others were paying $10 before since the $10 being negotiated now would be comparable to what others are paying?

    And it may not even be $10. It could be less. City solicitor George Wilkki had said "the city is willing to look at "anything reasonable.... Any offer that would come in the door we would take to council and see what council wants to do with it."

I'm so confused. How can the average lease rate be $23.70 per square foot when it looks like the City was prepared to take even less than $10 per square foot? Does the Mayor's number include common fees as well which would make for a rental of about $8.70 per square foot so that the City is losing about $10 per square foot on the lease rate?

I really would like to know how the Mayor calculated the average lease rate. I am going to write to 311 and ask to be provided with the basis of that calculation. If I ever get the answer I'll post it here.

I wish we could get the facts easily. But that would be a novelty for this City.

FREE WINDSOR STAR "FOR LEASE" ADS FOR LANDLORDS

Congratulations to the Windsor Star and to Dave Hall its business editor for attempting to help reduce the vacancy rate of business premises in downtown Windsor. I suggest that any landlord that has vacant space immediately contact Dave and ask him to write a story about your premises. It costs nothing. How else to explain the following story:
  • "NEW CENTRE PLANNED FOR FORMER RESTAURANT

    Despite the fact the property will eventually be expropriated to accommodate a long-planned $30-million expansion of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel plaza, a new pharmacy and laser centre is planned for a former restaurant on Goyeau Street.

    It will be located in the former Trevi and Musashi restaurants, according to Abe TaqTaq, whose family owns the property in addition to the adjacent tunnel duty free shop.

    TaqTaq said he's still trying to attract interest from physicians and a pharmacist to lease space in the 5,500-square-foot building.

    "We're also in discussions with a company that operates laser centres," said TaqTaq.

    Plans to expand the tunnel plaza "appear to be off in the distant future and in the meantime, we're just trying to fill the space," he said."

I would suggest that Mr. TaqTaq change the sign on his building since it suggests that the premises have already been leased out to a pharmacy and a laser clinic. He may be losing perspective tenants who think that the space is already gone when it looks like no one has made a firm commitment yet. Mind you, who would want to lease space in the building where it may be expropriated at some indefinite time in the future.

If you want to see what the sign looks like just go to my BLOG September 27, 2007 "A Picture Is Worth A Lot Of Dollars."

The story is interesting from another perspective as well. Since Mr. TaqTaq is involved in the duty-free shop at that Tunnel, presumably he would know what is going on at that location. Accordingly, it appears that the Tunnel Plaza improvements are not going to happen for a very long time and it may also mean that the US$75 million deal with the City of Detroit may be in limbo as well.

I wish I could give you more information about both of those transactions but only the Mayor's office knows for sure and they don't tell mere citizens anything. I guess the only information that we can get is from reading tea leaves based on the slightest of facts.

DETROIT'S TUNNELLEER HAS LEFT

According to Crain's Detroit, Derrick Miller, the Chief Information Officer for Detroit's Mayor has left the employ of the City. Apparently, he is to be involved in a "new entrepreneurial venture."

What makes a story interesting for Windsor is that my understanding is that he was the key person on the Detroit side responsible for the transaction with Windsor with respect to the Tunnel.

The timing of his leaving combined with Mr. TaqTaq's comment above suggests that the Tunnel deal may not be done for quite some time, if at all.

Now I have heard, but do not know if this is true, that Mr. Miller's new job may involve municipal finance. If so, perhaps his first client could be our Mayor. He might be able to help him find US$75 million since so far it would not appear that there is a financial backer on this transaction unless {gulp} it is Windsor taxpayers' money!

HALF EMPTY MATH

We have heard about the overwhelming support behind Greenlink but...as the infamous Councillor of Ward 1 would say, since it's only about 2-3% of the 200,000 people who live in Windsor, it is hardly an endorsement.

Here are some numbers according to the Star: 32,800 website hits, Ward meetings attracted 2,925 people, 829 comment cards, 1,624 callers to 311.

BUT, approvals have come so far from less than 10% of those people according to the Mayor's percentages. I'll let you know what some of the other 90% think this afternoon in my BLOG based on a random survey of concerned Windsorites. And it is NOT a pretty picture.

If we look at the Ambassador Bridge YouTube numbers for their animation of the Enhancement Project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrVM_ReGCSE they have received over 14,000 hits with minimal publicity compared with what this City spent on Greenlink.

GAZELLE FEEDER AWARD

Congratulations to Matt Fischer, chief executive officer of the Windsor-Essex Development Commission, for winning a President's Award from the Economic Developers Association of Canada for developing and writing "a comprehensive guide to economic development.

I'd like to give him an award if he has created some jobs in Windsor since his appointment in February with the Commission. They were supposed to have some kind of a game plan during their 120 days of action for "plans to restructure the office with a stronger focus on business attraction and retention."

It would be nice to know what the herd of gazelle feeders have accomplished

IS LARRY HORWITZ RUNNING FOR MAYOR

He has to be. No one in living memory, other than a politician, has been in a Gord Henderson's column so many times as Larry Horwitz in so short a period of time.

To be honest, when I saw his name again,I was hoping for another Pamela Anderson story. Instead, we got another "let's help Eddie bring something else from St. Clair College downtown so he can justify spending money to bring them there because he failed with the University."

I wonder if, in their tour of those successful cities in Michigan, they asked businesspeople some questions. The most obvious ones are:

  • Do you have a City Hall that works with business or one that fights with business

  • Do you have a City Hall that won't allow a garage to be built or to replace at a house that is falling down

  • Do you have a City Hall that chases developers and businesses out of town and won't work with major companies but calls them enemies

  • Do you have a City Hall that has to call in outside auditors to review their books

  • Do you have a City Hall that threatens to sue the Senior Levels of Government, the same ones from which they want grants

  • Do you have a City Hall that for a period of over five years has not taken advantage of $300 million of funds to build a road to the border that would have created thousands of high-paying, badly needed, infrastructure and related jobs

  • Have your license fees increased dramatically over the period of the year

  • What are your water, sewer and electrical charges and have they increased dramatically

  • What are your property and business taxes like and have they increased dramatically

Gord is right about one thing. As he said, "we also need a change in attitude." Of course that will not happen with our Mayor and Council.

There was also a hilarious joke in his column:

  • "With the arena under construction, the riverfront done and a border deal just months away, Horwitz argues that Windsor's next great civic crusade must be about downtown revival."

DUH...if the arena was downtown, and not stuck out in the boonies invisible for most people, our downtown would be in the midst of its revival now. And guess who has to take responsibility for being silent when the arena could have been downtown but instead was moved to the East End in a behind the scenes deal that never worked out.

So tell me Larry and Gord, How can we "Git-R-Done" downtown now!

ROSS PAUL HITS BACK

It seems that the University through its President has decided to take an offensive position with respect to the downtown Engineering Complex. I guess they got tired of being the fall guys for Eddie's urban village failure downtown

Mind you it's their own fault. The University and its Board have been just about as secretive with respect to the Complex as is the City with almost anything. If they had been open and transparent with the community about what they were doing with the Complex, then they would not have been subject to the attacks in the Star and the President would not have had to have written the guest column in the Star's editorial page.

Oh please, don't write me and tell me that it was purely coincidental about the timing with Gord's column and Dr. Paul's comment. Regular readers know better than that. We had Gord's front-page story in the Star on Thursday too.

I must admit I wasn't sure if Gord had been demoted to a newspaper reporter when I saw the story in Thursday's paper "Engineering building doubtful for city core." I guess it must have meant since his name was on the byline that it was a "BIG STORY."

Why he just didn't say that one of the University's big-time, expected contributors said that a downtown campus made no sense for the Complex is something I don't understand. That probably killed any chance of the Complex going downtown.

The University is a strange beast. It seems that they are not prepared to go into a financial hole in order to help out our Mayor. Gee, if the University is "cash-strapped" as Henderson claims, then the University Board should be congratulated rather than condemned for their actions.

Didn't we read something recently about universities and debt in that Star:

  • "The University of Windsor has $108.8 million in debt or $7,522 per student, which is the third lowest debt-to-student ratio of the 13 universities in the study.

    Before June 2006, the school had $45 million in debt. It floated additional debentures to pay for the new medical school and the Centre for Engineering Innovation.

    "We were very careful about debt we took on," said Sandra Aversa, associate vice-president of finance. "Our debt ratios are very strong. All our debt costs are budgeted for. The university probably took a more conservative approach by establishing a (fund) to pay off the debt. We've always been fiscally prudent to ensure the long term financial future of the institution."

Hmmmm perhaps Ross Paul should run for Mayor since his term as President of the University is ending soon. We could use someone who is prudent in handling his constituents' money.

DIEFENBAKER'S "THEY" ARE BACK

I was reminded of this whenI heard an interview on CKLW involving Councillor Jones after the Ward 2 Schwartz road meeting. Here is the transcript:

  • "Announcer: While most approve of the proposal, there has been some negative feedback but Ward 2 Councillor Ron Jones isn’t buying it

    Councillor Jones: This proposal has been something that the people have totally bought into. Once again, there are some who are here and we know why they are here. They are here to be negative as to this proposal and we know who sent them."

Dief the Chief used to sprinkle "THEY" in his speeches all the time. If it were not for the Chief, THEY would get us! He had to protect us from THEM.

Well, THEY are still around it seems but have moved to Windsor. I never had the chance to ask the former Prime Minister who THEY were but perhaps Councillor Jones could reveal their identity so I can sleep better at night.