Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Windsor/Detroit Truth From Sarnia

Windsor has to be destroyed so a private P3 investor can make money. The Governments' agenda has to be accomplished no matter what the consequences for Windsor.

I guess the DRIC and Government people must think that I and others locally do not read the Sarnia and Port Huron newspapers. They think they can say all kinds of things about our border crossing provided it is not covered by a Windsor or Detroit media outlet and that no one will find out about it!

How else to explain these comments by Mark Butler of Transport Canada. They are simply unbelievable and a disgrace.

After you read this from the Sarnia Observer, let me try and analyze what was said. It should shock you too!

  • Blue Water Bridge site of survey
    Data to be used in new bridge plans
    CATHY DOBSON, The Observer

    Thousands of cars were stopped for a quick survey at the Blue Water Bridge Thursday by officials wanting to know where they were going and what route they were taking.

    Transport Canada spent 24 hours on the bridge plaza conducting 1,300 to 1,400 surveys, said spokesperson Mark Butler.

    Similar surveys were done at the Windsor tunnel in order to generate financial information for a possible public-private partnership when a new bridge is built across the Detroit River.

    A new international crossing, owned by the Canadian and American governments, is proposed between Windsor and Detroit, Butler said.

    The Canadian government has already made the policy decision to pursue a P3 partnership for construction on its side and is gathering survey information for revenue projections.

    “Private financiers want to know the kind of return they can expect, so we are looking at what type of traffic is coming across, traffic flows and the number of vehicles,” Butler said.

    Drivers were stopped during a 24-hour period near the Blue Water Duty Free Shop and the Currency Exchange for an interview lasting 30 to 45 seconds. They were asked where they were travelling from, where they were going and the roads used.

    The data is also useful to the Blue Water Bridge Authority and will be shared with officials there, Butler said.

    A second survey is being mailed directly to trucking companies to determine why they use the Blue Water Bridge.

    The Blue Water Bridge accepts trucks carrying hazardous goods while the Ambassador Bridge does not. The proposed bridge would take hazardous material, Butler confirmed.

    “So it’s possible traffic from the Blue Water Bridge could go to the new bridge,” he said. “It’s also possible some trucking firms currently use the Blue Water Bridge because they don’t want to travel through city streets to get to the Ambassador Bridge, but they will use the new bridge when it is built.”

    The proposed Detroit River International Crossing is going through the Environmental Assessment process and is expected to file EA documentation later this year.

    Pending Environmental Assessment approval, construction could start by 2010 and be complete three years later.

    Three plaza locations on the Canadian side are under consideration two to three kilometres west of the Ambassador Bridge, Butler said. The exact location will be determined this spring but all are in an industrialized area.

    Concern has been expressed by Ambassador Bridge officials about their loss of business. The Ambassador is privately owned and some estimates suggest as much as 76 per cent of its traffic may be diverted to the new crossing.

    However, Butler said he’s never seen any documentation to support that claim.

    From a market perspective, there’s room for another crossing,” he said."

This one newspaper article to me demonstrates just about everything that is wrong with DRIC in one place. It shows complete desperation on the part of the Government to build a new crossing, or rather to force the Ambassador Bridge Company out of business, than anything else I have ever seen. They will say whatever is required to try to convince someone to pay for their agenda no matter what!

Do you remember when this all started an eternity ago? At that time, the DRIC traffic projections, which have proven to be completely incorrect, estimated that traffic volumes would double here. Even with rail, marine and with vehicles going through Sarnia, the volumes were still so high here that we needed a new bridge. Part of the object of the exercise as well was to make other crossing alternatives attractive to reduce the number of trucks coming here as well.


We need as many trucks here as possible to try to justify financially why someone would finance the DRIC bonndoggle bridge. Gee, aren't issues of redundancy and security enough to convince some private investor to put a big chunk of money here? I'm sure that you will remember how DRIC "changed the conversation" to these issues when its traffic numbers were proven to be ridiculous. I guess they discovered that private investors aren't that stupid to put in money into a project that would not get them a return on their investment.

Now we know that the traffic projections are phony. Why else are surveys being done but to demonstrate to possible P3 investors that there is sufficient volume to add a new bridge to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars that they will need to put into the project.

Perhaps one day the Windsor Star will actually quote the numbers from the US DRIC report that state that in effect the new bridge will bankrupt the other crossings by taking away their traffic. I wonder if it is because they want a new public bridge in the Windsor area that they have not taken the time to read the US DRIC EIS report and reported on it.

That is the only way that the new bridge can justify the money that is to be put into it. How much will that cost in taxpayer subsidies to keep the other crossings operating? The US report states that the new bridge will control up to 80% of the truck traffic and 60% of the car traffic thereby taking a big part of the business of the Ambassador Bridge and that it will take away 26% of the Detroit Tunnel's traffic and about 18% of the Blue Water Bridge truck traffic.

Remember, we were supposed to keep away truck traffic as much as possible. Now DRIC wants to bring it to us. Not just any traffic mind you but hazardous material traffic that can go through the Green Link Schwunnels if Eddie is successful. Wait a minute though, can that kind of truck traffic go through a tunnel? I guess that is how Greenlink is killed too. And of course, those drivers who don't like stoplights will come here as well.

What we are seeing is what I have said. No one in their right mind would invest in a new crossing here with the Ambassador Bridge competing for the traffic. The new bridge tolls would have to be about three to four times higher in order to pay off their indebtedness. It would mean the bankruptcy of the new crossing in a very short period of time so that no one would invest here in the first place.

Why else do you think the story about the marshalling yard was floated like a trial balloon. The only way a new bridge can be successful is if trucks are told exactly which crossing they are allowed to use.

Next Mr. Butler tells us that a decision has been made about building a P3 bridge. When did that story come out? It is interesting that revenue projections are being made. Does that mean that Wibur Smith's preliminary investment grade survey on traffic has demonstrated that the crossing will go broke without traffic being taken away from all the other crossings in South West Ontario?

Is the Government trying to fix the result to sucker some investor into putting money into something that the Governments would never do themselves? If I am right about the precarious financial position that the other crossings will be put into, then it will be the Governments who will have to subsidize them for years and years and years. All this just to put the Ambassador Bridge out of business!

Here's something that perhaps Mr. Butler misssed. It is what his Minister said only a few months ago:

  • "Last week, he [Brian Masse] challenged the federal transport minister on whether the feds have done due diligence to determine if a private sector partner is the right model to use in the construction of a new crossing...

    During questioning by Masse last Thursday at the standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities, Cannon backpedalled, saying a process will be launched early in the new year to determine whether a P3 is appropriate for Windsor.

    "From the indications we have up to now, it's an interesting avenue to pursue," Cannon told the committee. "But if at the end of the day it's determined that it isn't in the public's interest or it's not something that is going to fly, I can assure you we are not going to go forward."

Strange, I have not yet seen the justification for spending taxpayer money when the Owner of the Bridge Company is prepared to spend his money to build his Enhancement Project.

If I am right about traffic projections, then it is clear that Mr. Butler may have failed his economics course. If the existing crossings have lost volumes dramatically as the Ambassador Bridge showed at the Senate Hearings, then how can Mr. Butler state

  • "From a market perspective, there’s room for another crossing,” he said."

The Tunnel has been unable to pay a dividend to the City so what will losing a quarter of its business do to them as an example? Perhaps Mr. Butler should remember what was said in the United States about market perspectives:

  • "Nonetheless, it is believed (by Joe Corradino the US DRIC consultant) that the market won’t support three bridges."

Wouldn't it be nice if the 2 sides said the same thing. But how can you do that if the message doesn't fit within your agenda!

Mr. Corradino also said about a decade ago that the Ambassador Gateway project which is being built now is capable of handling on its own 5.4 million trucks, about 2 million more trucks across the border today. That is without a new bridge!

It also appears that the infamous City Hall amnesia disease is spreading like wildfire to other branches of the Government and has now struck Federal Government officials. For Mr. Butler to state with a straight face that he has never seen anything that supported what the Ambassador Ridge said about their loss of traffic is inconceivable to me. Here is the Letter to the Editor that I sent to the Sarnia Observer since I was so angry"

  • "You will have to explain to me why the Governments on both sides of the river are so intent to spend up to a half a billion dollars in the Sarnia/Port Huron area to fix up a problem that may not exist in your area any longer if a new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge is built in Windsor/Detroit.

    Transport Canada’s Mark Butler was quoted in the Sarnia Observer saying that many trucks that might otherwise use the Blue Water Bridge might choose instead to use the Windsor crossing.

    The draft DRIC US Environmental Impact Statement states that depending on which crossing alternative is chosen:

    "..the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of 75 percent of its truck traffic…A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges."

    More importantly, the new DRIC bridge could cause severe financial problems to the Blue Water bridge and to your region including loss of tourist dollars:

    "Providing a new border crossing would cause travel shifts over a wide area. For example, a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could attract travelers from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan. At the same time, the proposed border crossing would reduce traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel."

    Your bridge could lose 7% in overall auto traffic and a 16 to 18 percent decline in overall truck traffic.

    Clearly, Governments do NOT want the people of your region and mine to compare notes. If we did, we would demand that they stop their huge waste of taxpayer money!"

That quotation came right from the US draft Environmental Impact Statement that is published on the US DRIC website. The report quotes specific numbers that effectively puts the Ambassador Bridge out of business.

Selective rememberance is absolutely essential for Transport Canada these days it seems so that people will forget about what its representative said in the Senate hearings:

  • "Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge. The intent of this bill is to ensure that the government fulfills its constitutional obligation and that it has the tools to do so.

    The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge."

The games continue. The only reality is that there are 11 cranes and 2,800 people with jobs on the other side of the river building this massive Ambassador Gateway project that is designed and always has been to accommodate another span across the river. This project, assuming that the Enhancement Project Bridge is allowed to be built as well, will not result in the destruction of two communities... Sandwich and Delray as the DRIC bridge will.

Perhaps one day some Government official will recognize a DRIC Megaproject running amok and will stop it. We can only hope.