DRIC Road/Greenlink Bread And Circuses
I thought I was being very polite when I requested a favour a few days ago:
- "May I ask the politicians, both local and at the Senior Levels, to hold all important news events until I return!"
Did they listen to me? Of course not. They had to spite me and break several important news stories! It is almost as if they waited for me to go away so that I could not comment in a timely fashion.
Now I have to play catch-up. All kinds of things have taken place that I could not BLOG about until today. Let me talk about the road to the border in this BLOG and other events in subsequent ones.
Being away from this all has given me a perspective that I might not have had if I were involved in the day-to-day consideration of all of the massive amounts of information that have been pouring out in the media. The PR types have been churning out so much data that it is easy to get lost in it all.
I just can't help having the feeling that we are all being duped by the theatrics going on about the DRIC Road and Greenlink. Everybody calling everybody else names. Threats of lawsuits. Dwight Duncan on television warning the City to get onside or face a cheaper solution or watch the Senior Levels pull out completely.
The hilarious thought of the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget laying down "on Huron Church Road to draw attention to the "Greenlink" plan and protest the DRIC border access route" made me wonder how anyone can take him seriously as Mayoral material. I guess I better call him Mahatma Brister from now on for his non-violent protest tactics!
Since I do not want a by-election in my Ward, the Councillor should check this out first since I read on the Internet that
- "Big trucks don't stop very well, when fully loaded they take about twice as long to stop as passenger cars...Most air brake systems do not automatically adjust for wear, so unless they are well maintained brake performance can deteriorate seriously."
Can Eddie be really that dumb to take a shot at the Province at the same time that our Mayor is asking the Province for at least $75 million to finance a Tunnel deal. I don't know where you're from but that is not the best way to negotiate a loan of big bucks. So there have to be some games that are being played behind the scenes as we are all being laughed at by the bureaucrats and politicians. I guess that this is how they get their jollies.
I have never really taken a position on how the road should go to the border or how it should be built. To be honest, I don't care if that is a Tunnel, an at grade road, a below grade road or one of those in combination with a shunnel or a Schwunnel. All I care is that it gets done since we need the border to be operational. They all work.
I have criticized the various schemes that the City has proposed as being totally unrealistic and designed as a stall. At least I can say in my defence that I've been proven correct with respect to Sam's Horseshoe Road scheme and full tunneling proposal. I'm right as well with respect to Greenlink.
I learned this early on as General Counsel of STOPDRTP. Like it or not, one has to be practical about what one asks for. I was told that arguments about the environment, quality of life, diseases etc. would have no impact on the decision makers given all of the expressways around North America. What would have an impact would be engineering and costs. After all no one is going to do something special for Windsor or else everyone across Canada will demand the equivalent if a road is to be built in their location. Apparently, DRIC made that argument to the City in private conversation. That is why STOPDRTP was so successful... we dealt with why DRTP made no sense as a project.
I want to approach my discussion about the road to the border in a different way. I have a better idea I believe about how to build what is needed and I don't just mean roads. It is a better use of taxpayer money.
I generally don't mix in my private life in these BLOGs. But I'm going to make an exception in this case because I was so angered by remarks made by the President of the Essex County Medical Society.
The reason I am so angry is that I again have to find a new family doctor, mine just announced he is retiring (the third time this has happened to me in the last few years.) The process apparently is that I have to be interviewed by a new doctor to see if he/she will take my family on as patients. More importantly, my wife just had to go to London to have surgery performed because it could not be done in Windsor. That is why I was away.
I don't know where they have been for the last six years but all of a sudden the Medical Society has to mouth off about the border road.
- "Dr. Anthony Glanz said an access link that is fully tunnelled would have the least impact on public health."
And how does the good doctor know that? The dirt and pollution have to come out from the tunnel someway and there is no scrubbing technology that will do the job. He should have asked the Mayor, who is also the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission and CEO of the new Tunnel Corporation about this. We own a Tunnel after all that pollutes the air due to exhaust. But getting a headline probably was more important to him.
Since he knows that we're not getting full tunneling, the doctor has to make this remark to show how brilliant he is:
- "The next most appealing proposal would involve tunnelling as much of the route as possible, and ensuring that the release of particulate matter and exhaust emissions is far enough away from populated areas so as to minimize the health impact."
And how will that be done dear doctor? That makes him now a partial tunnelling expert. It is so easy just making flippant statements with no scientific background to justify what you're saying.
He is a finance expert as well:
- "No one can, or should, put a price tag on choosing the right long-term solution."
Well I tell you what doctor, here's what I'm going to do. I am going to strongly suggest that you keep quiet on issues that you don't know anything about such as building a border road and try and deal with the problem of finding more doctors for this area so that I can have a family doctor and so that my wife does not have to travel for hours to get proper medical attention. Do your job first properly and then I might take you seriously!
I'm also going to send you my expenses for going three times to London for a doctor to look at my wife and operate on her including gas, hotel and food bills that we incurred. Money is no object to you it seems so you should be able to re-imburse me. I can't imagine how much grief and financial problems are caused to people who have to go out of the City on many trips because of medical problems. After all doctor, why should I have to pay out money because there is no long-term medical solution yet for what ails this part of the Province.
Why am I taking it out on the poor doctor... just because I was "p****d by his remarks as Council was in relation to DRIC's presentation.
In my opinion, I would rather have the billions of dollars in cash that would otherwise be wasted on a road to the border, whether it is the DRIC road or Greenlink, for use in Windsor on important matters such as paying for highly skilled doctors, or having enough hospital beds or having the latest equipment here so one does not have to wait for months or be forced to travel out of town. We need more creativity by the Medical Society as shown with the "warp speed" emergency system being introduced by Windsor Regional Hospital than the head of the Society talking about border roads.
How to get that money? It is so simple. Follow the US precedent... argue that this is what the Senior Levels of Governments need to pay to Windsor as a fee or compensation to be the "host community" for international trucks. We are prepared to allow those vehicles into our Community even though we receive no benefit from them in return for an amount in the billions to be paid to us by the Governments to be used for spending to benefit this community.
The calculation of the amount would be done on the following basis. Figure out the cost of the at grade, or probably below grade, road solution and subtract that amount from the real cost of what the DRIC road would cost with a few extra Schwunnels thrown in. The remainder is what would be paid to Windsor as the host community
Afer all, US DRIC is promising the moon and the stars to Delray for its residents to be the "host community” for the DRIC project" so the precedent has been set:
- "MDOT, in partnership with FHWA is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities."
I would rather that Windsor be a leader in doing this so that the other "host" Cities across Canada can emulate us rather than us seeking a better roadway that will not be better in the long term and seeing billions of dollars wasted on concrete.
Just like the Mayor with the great medical line in the Star, "my blood boils" too when I know that I'm being played. Here's the hypocrisy of all of this nonsense. The Mayor can say:
- "As the caregivers of our community, he said, "doctors are the people who treat the consequences of pollution -- asthma, cardiovascular disease, and having their voice is a very important voice..."
The doctors' public statement is a reminder to the province as well as DRIC officials that their priority should be the health and quality of life of Windsor-area residents, Francis said.
"Health and quality of life should be the overriding issue," he said."
And yet, only a week ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. came to town and told us what our real problem from pollution was. It was NOT pollution from trucks either:
- "U.S. companies have made Windsor "the most polluted city in North America," and he's taking them to court to answer for the health toll they've taken.
RiverKeepers, Kennedy's environmental watchdog group, is taking Michigan companies, including power company DTE Energy, to court alleging they're "damaging quality of life and public health here," he said during a stop in Windsor.
"Mainly, the problem is Windsor is downwind from Detroit," Kennedy told reporters. "A lot of the industries in Detroit, the air emissions make their way to Windsor. Windsor has some of the highest cancer rates, particularly thyroid cancer rates. Many other respiratory illnesses that are associated with pollution are more prevalent here than any other place in Canada. The air quality is regularly the worst in Canada. Windsor is downwind of a lot of really bad polluters."
It's more than that. No one seems to remember that within a decade the changes in diesel fuel and engine technology will mean that the air that is coming out of diesel engines will probably be purer than the air that went inside of them. Interestingly the trees that everybody is talking about as our saviours may be more of a problem for contamination. [See BLOG October 15, 2007, "Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees"].
If you think we are getting the DRIC road, you are dreaming. There is no interest in spending a whole bunch of money in Windsor for quality of life or environmental reasons. We are going to get either an at-grade or a below grade solution. Here's what is happening in Sarnia right now:
- "Hwy. 402 widening approved; Environment minister tells MPP Bob Bailey
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey says Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen personally told him this week that the controversial widening of Highway 402 has been approved.
Bailey said Friday that Gerretsen approached him at Queen's Park and said he'd "signed off" on the mega-project. However, no formal confirmation has been issued by the ministry.
"I was told it's now on the minister of transportation's desk and will move ahead," Bailey said. "They want to advance it quickly."
That means there won't be an extensive environmental assessment, a process requested by numerous residents, including Mayor Mike Bradley.
At least four local groups and individuals objected in writing to the widening based on their environmental concerns. It appears those objections have been pushed aside, Bradley said.
"This flies in the face of everything the McGuinty government has said about protecting the environment."
Bradley argued for years that the addition of two lanes through the city core will create a "parking lot" of traffic waiting to use the Blue Water Bridge.
"I imagine they're popping corks right now in Port Huron because we're going to become the marshaling yard for American-bound traffic," Bradley said."
Parks for Windsor and a parking lot for Sarnia----don't be silly. One has to be consistent! We will both get the same. And I do not mean the greenspace alternative.
It is just that we have been more vocal in Windsor so the DRIC people are shutting us up with fancy roadways in the same manner as they are fooling the people of Delray with concepts that can never be carried out! They know Windsor likes to THINK BIG.
We are being played for suckers. Talk about DRIC, talk about Greenlink. The reality is we're going to get an upgraded EC Row. That is what the Joint Management Committee talked about back in 2002, that was included in the Nine Point Plan and what Cansult outlined when it killed Schwartz Report #1. It has always been on the table and will be linked to Highway 401 probably both by Manning Road and by Lauzon Parkway.
By the way, the Governments are not going to build the DRIC road either. It will be part of the public/private partnership that is supposed to build the new border crossing. Again to remind you, Mark Butler of Transport Canada threw out the trial balloon about paying a levy to use the speedy lanes to cross the border. That is part of how it will be financed.
Of course, I have more to base my remarks on than trial balloons. What about this comment from the Government of Canada in a Press Release:
- "The Government of Canada welcomes the design proposal for the Windsor-Essex Parkway...
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, today welcomed the proposal from the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study team on the technically preferred alternative for the access road from Highway 401 to the proposed new international border crossing...
"Our Government committed $400 million to this project in Budget 2007 to deliver economic benefits, increased employment, and a cleaner environment for the region," said Minister Cannon."
Whatever happened to a commitment for an additional $4-500 million needed to pay half of the cost of the DRIC $1.6-1.8B road. As you will recall as well, the Province has never committed any specific sum of money to the project although they did say that they would pay their fair share of it.
Advertising blitzes, threats of lawsuits, even a lawsuit... it's all part of the game. I just can't get excited about it anymore because it is all so phony in my opinion. The Three Governments have worked out their deal. It was worked out a long, long time ago.
The Province will upload the Expressway and extend it by several lanes in each direction while at the same time doing some work on Huron Church Road using Border Infrastructure Fund money. I would expect that they will come up with a cheap road to keep costs down to a minimum telling us that it will be improved once the traffic volumes increase again. And it never will be.
By the way, the only fight that will take place is between the Bridge Company and the Governments. The real fight will be how the new road system will ultimately connect with the Ambassador Bridge or whether it will at all. Remember Ontario Minister Cansfield and Federal Minister Cannon all have suggested in the past that they have difficulty with trucks on Huron Church Road while Schwartz's design for our Champs Elysées showed a four lane road rather than six lanes as it is now.