Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Will Ontario Infrastructure Finance Detroit

I am glad that Eddie took a day off to go to Chicago to speak at the Annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum on the subject of "The New Urban Dwellers: Addressing the Challenge and Opportunity of Urbanization."

He must be really dedicated to get up so early, 4 AM I heard, to fly YQG to Toronto and then back to Chicago. Most others would have gone to Detroit Metro to fly to Chicago non-stop. Ms Nazzani will be pleased. You know I am kidding right. Perhaps he drove there.

Actually, Eddie was in Chicago to promote Windsor's newest entrepreneurial business: financing American and other foreign cities with budget problems using Ontario Government Infrastructure money. It's a sure thing too!

I was quite amused that our Infrastructure Ontario Loan Fund could be used to help pay off the Detroit budget debt as an example. I wonder if other US cities are aware of our cheap financing program to help them with their operating budget issues. We can be their banker borrowing at one rate and loaning out money at a profit. We are so wealthy here in Ontari-ari-arioooo.

I noted with interest the comment made by Steve Dyck, a spokesman for the agency, who said

  • “the tunnel deal would qualify under the loan program."

I wondered how this could be:

  • "All Ontario municipalities are eligible to apply for a loan from Infrastructure Ontario. For more information on eligibility requirements please see the Program Guidelines.

    Eligible Projects

    The OSIFA Loan Program provides affordable financing for all capital investments, including but not limited to:

    Water, wastewater and sewage infrastructure
    Roads and bridges
    Culture, tourism, administration and recreation infrastructure
    Energy efficiency projects (windows, doors, lighting, etc.)
    Water, hydro, HVAC and communications systems
    Ambulances, fire trucks, snow ploughs, garbage trucks and rolling stock
    Ferries and docks
    Local police and fire stations
    Asset management tools and systems
    Accessibility improvements"

Hmmmm nothing about American City loans here nor to get an interest in a US-owned Tunnel encumbered by an operating agreement that lasts about another dozen years.

I do note that the City will need to get an interim bridge financing loan (now that's a funny pun) since

  • "NOTE: Proceeds of the loan can only flow after a financing agreement has been executed and expenditures have been incurred." and that

    "Infrastructure Ontario has the right, at its discretion, to terminate the agreement if a borrower is in default of its obligations. In addition, Infrastructure Ontario is authorized to request the Minister of Finance to intercept certain provincial grants to the borrower in the case of default."

I tried under Municipal Corporations since the new Tunnel Corporation would be one I assume:

  • "Municipal Corporations

    Since 2006, the OSIFA Loan Program has helped to make a difference in communities across Ontario by providing affordable loans to municipal corporations. Municipal corporations can include: local distribution companies, gas utilities, municipal Long-term care homes, local housing corporations, utility telecoms, transit corporations or social housing corporations."

    Eligible Projects

    Infrastructure Ontario loans can be used for any capital investments, including but not limited to:

    Facility expansion, renovation and retrofits
    Energy conservation retrofits
    Overhead wiring and underground cabling, gas lines, pipe work
    Any development or asset classified as a capital expenditure
    Switchgear and pole structures
    Smart Meter installation
    Alternative energy generation facilities
    Transportation infrastructure
    Vehicles and maintenance equipment

Hmmmm maybe "Transportation infrastructure" could be the excuse if we ignore that the money is for American Infrastructure, not for a project in Ontario.

Take a look at the kind of projects being examined today by the Government Department: and check out what has been done for Windsor already:

No disrespect intended for my Detroit scolder but we frankly have our own concerns to deal with before the Province should try and make Eddie a hero.

And who says that the amount of the loan is only for $75M. We have made that assumption haven't we without knowing what the facts are. Is there a greater sum being asked for?

Go and check out the press releases to see what kind of projects generally receive loans: medical ones primarily for hospitals as in Windsor. No wonder "More than 90 per cent of loan applications, end up getting approved"

  • "The Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority will continue to develop and implement an infrastructure renewal loan program that provides efficient and affordable financing to meet critical municipal, health and housing infrastructure priorities."

The only thing "critical" or a priority in the Tunnel project is Eddie's future, not ours! Time to end this newest boondoggle.

Surely Eddie will be back home soon since it is only a one day conference. On the other hand, there is also at the same time the first-ever 3-day U.S.-Arab Cities Forum hosted also by Chicago's Mayor. I wonder if Eddie is attending that too. Perhaps he is looking for oil money as a last resort!

I am sure that Eddie will return in time for the DRIC road unveiling and to comment on the really important issue: the Spitfire's contract. It is due to be released this week too. Hmmm I wonder which will make the bigger story.

No BLOGs Until Monday

For personal family reasons, I will not be able to write a BLOG until Monday.

May I ask the politicians, both local and at the Senior Levels, to hold all important news events until I return!

Thank you for your consideration

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What The DRIC Announcement Means

The Sheriff did it again. Slamming Eddie although to the uninitiated, ie non-readers of this BLOG, they would not recognize that. After all, who told us 3 times about the real cost of the Greenlink road a long time ago. (Oh don't you like how Greenlink is no longer a "highway" but a "tunnel" with no specs!)

I think that I had better mark this day on the calendar. I finally agreed with something that Gord Henderson wrote in his column. Of course, as is typical with the Star, one had to read to the last line in his Column in order to find this gem:

  • "It's appalling to think that Windsor's future, and the health of future generations, could be sacrificed on the grubby altar of personal ambition."

Truer words were never spoken except those words were directed right at our Mayor.

What I am terribly afraid of is that his stalling and threatening will mean that the Senior Levels will have enough and pull completely out of Windsor. There would go the thousands of infrastructure jobs needed until we can diversify our economy. Up would go the sign "Windsor Closed For Business." There would go our future and that of our children for reasons that only our Mayor knows.

Fortunately for us, that may not be a practical step that the Senior Levels can take now after all of their comments about how important the Windsor border is to the economies of Canada and the United States. However, it does not mean that they need to spend billions of dollars for a road to the border. That would be the real loss for which the Mayor would be responsible and whom we should blame.

When DRIC makes its announcement this week there is more at stake than just the road to the border. Let me talk about a number of matters that are involved.

The first one, and this is important both to taxpayers in Windsor and Detroit, is the likelihood of a Tunnel deal being brought to fruition has to be minimal. Who is going to invest in a declining asset when a DRIC road to a new border crossing is going to be built. Traffic will decline in the Tunnel even more than now. The Star Editorial today denouncing the Minister of Finance is not a smart idea when you are looking to the Province for funding in order to pay $75 million to Detroit.

Will Eddie be in town for the announcement this week? He flew off to Germany when Dwight had his pre-budget meeting. At Council last night, Eddie left early and based on a remark by Councillor Hatfield, it appeared that he might not be in attendance at the meeting next week. Moreover, he was not on the radio this morning. That is highly unusual.

I also believe that Windsor will be lucky if we get the DRIC road. I saw a story the other day that suggested that the Federal surplus may disappear and we already know the problems that the Province has with respect to money due to the downturn in manufacturing. Note well that the Province has not committed to any specific sum of money yet while the Federal Government has seemingly committed to $400 million.

The Mayor's Press Release in which he talked about the road and bridge together in one breath and the Transport Canada comment about a levy to use the speedy lane to the border suggest to me strongly that there is no money for a DRIC border road.

US DRIC has pretty much said and confirmed that traffic volumes are not growing and that the only way that the DRIC bridge will be successful is by cannibalizing traffic from the other Southwest Ontario crossings. If that is the case, there will be enough difficulty in building a DRIC bridge never mind paying for a DRIC road that is 10 times more expensive than any other road in Ontario. Interestingly DRIC has made the obvious argument that if Governments built the Greenlink road in Windsor they would have to build a similar road everywhere else. That is never going to be happen.

Once Wilbur Smith does their investment grade traffic analysis, it is clear that the traffic volume reduction will have to be disclosed by the Senior Levels. That means in my opinion that a Border Infrastructure Fund "intermediate" road will be built and a new DRIC bridge postponed until traffic picks up. Monies have been set aside for an intermediate road and the Governments will be able to get away with an at grade solution as a "temporary solution." It also means that the Governments are going to have to make a deal with the Bridge Company to allow them to move forward on their Enhancement Project or this region will absolutely suffer. The DRIC bridge again will not be built until the traffic volumes can justify it.

Just as an aside think of the financing. The Governments cannot afford to build a bridge and that is why they want to do a P3 deal. In order to do so, they have to take away traffic from the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Watcher Bridge. Those crossings will suffer financially and in order to keep them open the Governments will have to subsidize the crossings or the tolls will have to increase so dramatically that tourists won't use them as much and the truckers' cost will have to be passed on to consumers. It is a no-win position to be in.

Of course, only one person will be blamed for all of this... our Mayor who stalled the process for years. Obviously, he is aware of that and that is why he needs this ad blitz. He has to divert attention from himself by, in my opinion, not only threatening a lawsuit against the Senior Levels but starting one. That would be catastrophic for us and would force the Senior Levels' hand. I'm sure you read this comment by David Estrin:

  • "The mayor said he's made his opinion known on the DRIC positions on GreenLink to local MPPs Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, who are provincial cabinet ministers.

    "My comments were that this is disappointing DRIC has chosen to go this way. It's unfortunate that this information is part of their decision making."

    A letter was sent Monday by the city's Toronto lawyer David Estrin to Wake, expressing "significant concern" that DRIC's "unprecedented and belated attack" on Greenlink "disrespects" the city's rights under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).

    DRIC must carefully consider alternatives presented and objectively and fairly review them, he said.

    DRIC is raising issues on its website and making statements about GreenLink without first raising them with Windsor indicates "bad faith" and conduct contrary to what's required under the Ontario EAA, Estrin states.

    "Baseless content of this criticism raises a significant concern that DRIC is being pressured to reject GreenLink."

    Asked whether the city may legally challenge the DRIC process, Francis responded he will wait until all the information has been presented by government officials."

You know things are getting desperate for the Mayor when the Star Editorial goes right after Dwight Duncan. He has been generally left out of the discussion until now. Oh he would get the odd swipe but primarily the target was Sandra. Not now:

  • "But Duncan only seemed to heed that letter's advice when it came to commenting on the city's GreenLink plan...

    It is hard to fathom how Duncan could have reached that firm conclusion in such a short span unless his office was involved in a process that is supposed to be free of political taint. It is also hard to see how those comments could not be perceived as Duncan taking sides on an issue he claimed he couldn't weigh in on...

    The finance minister was at it again Friday, defending DRIC and critiquing GreenLink after DRIC quietly issued a release offering technical criticisms of GreenLink."

It's not a very smart tactic to use with the guy who holds the purse strings. Eddie is again biting the hand that feeds to Windsor's detriment

In the end though the biggest loser will be Eddie Francis. No matter what anyone says, for all this time he's been underestimating the costs of the Greenlink road. He knew better. Can anyone take seriously anything that this Mayor has to say about the border now? What other matters is he hiding from us? His comments about quality of life ring hollow when he couldn't come clean with taxpayers.

The "grubby altar of personal ambition." The question that I've never been able to figure out is what Eddie wants out of the border matter. I can tell you from personal experience, the border was never an important matter for the Mayor when he first ran for office.

Is the Estrin lawsuit or a threat to one nothing more than an attempt to get money out of the Senior Levels to finance the Tunnel? Is this Eddie's way to get money out of the Senior Levels for Windsor for "hosting" the border road? Is this Eddie's way of trying to be successful for his next career? Is there some other objective? I wish I knew.

To be direct about it, getting money for the Tunnel deal if it made sense or getting money for Windsor or some other objective may well be commendable. If the Mayor could accomplish it, then he ought to be praised for. Why can't he come clean and tell us what his objectives are so that we can support him? As the Senior Levels learned previously with the STOPDRTP movement, there is nothing so strong as united Windsor. Why is he so afraid of citizens? I just don't get it. The ends do not justify the means as far as I'm concerned.

The tragedy with Eddie Francis when he finally leaves office and we look back at his two terms is how he squandered the support of the people of Windsor and how he failed on the border crossing. Open and transparent government... does he really understand that concept? To his dismay I am afraid, the saviours for Windsor will be his "enemies," the Bridge Company and the Senior Levels.

They will finally get it done in spite of him.

PS. For the ultimate in irony, and a 100-1 longshot, watch for the DRIC road to be killed and E C Row uploaded by the Province and upgraded with connections to Highway 401 if Eddie sues! Once that is started, the BIF road comes next. We are then back to 2002 as if all of this has been a bad dream and a total waste of effort.


Eddie's Press Release was titled: "DRIC Changes Rules Again." Why is he complaining? They did as he asked. They changed the conversation!

Poor Eddie. It really wasn't necessary for DRIC to hire outside engineers. Eddie did it to himself. He destroyed his own credibility as no one else could on the costing issue. I wonder how he will blame himself.

How does it feel, dear reader, to be used, to be played by the Mayor and City Council for so long? How does it feel to be treated as a pawn in a game and see, what, $1 million, being spent on ad blitzes for Greenlink that will accomplish absolutely nothing. How many Library books would that amount have purchased?

I posted the DRIC response to Greenlink. The City posted its response Monday afternoon. They should have waited a little bit longer and thought about what they said. It was pathetic. Take a look at it at

It looks like we Bloggers were pretty accurate in our comments about costing right from the beginning. Did Eddie really believe that he could hide about $1 billion of extra cost? In fact, my own belief is that the DRIC projections are too low considering that the shoulders have to be widened on both sides of the Schwunnels. But what is a few hundred million more between friends.

You know when someone is desperate when the first page of the City's press release does not deal with the topic. That page was just filler including the brief resumes of two experts who were not given the full information in the first place by the Greenlink team it would appear. When you go and take a look at their peer review, it does not appear that they were given the information that the Greenlink road was not the full-length to the border.

Oh by the way, to be dazzled by the experts' skills, go and read their qualifications, the pages and pages of them. Are you impressed? Their opinion is only as good however as the information that they are given in the first place.

The press release continues on an irrelevancy when it stated:
  • "We note that despite repeated requests, DRIC has not provided any breakdown of their cost estimate of the Parkway, in spite of an agreement to do so. Unfortunately a detailed examination of their costing cannot be completed as they have chosen to not release this information for public scrutiny."

What has that got to do with the costing done by Eddie's experts? I am sure that the DRIC road costs are just as inaccurate as the Greenlink ones will be in the end. That is generally what happens according to our Danish professor who wrote about Megaprojects.

If Eddie and Gord are to be fair they do have to admit that the DRIC team was correct:

  • "DRIC questioned the GreenLink cost estimate, suggesting the cost would be substantially higher than claimed by the GreenLink team."

The DRIC estimated number for Greenlink turned out to be $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion. That amount is up to $800 million higher than Eddie wanted us to believe. And almost exactly what Gord wrote about months ago! Such a co-incidence. The Sheriff strikes again!

The major reason for the discrepancy is that Eddie had his consultants stop right at EC Row and not go to the border. The excuse is a lame one:

  • "the GreenLink team, given no information to the contrary by DRIC, and no information released by DRIC in the form of a cost estimate for the Parkway, relied on the Parkway limits that were presented in their August 2007 open house material and conceptual graphics."

Oh please, if DRIC's road costs went right to the border, then Greenlink's road costs could have given some kind of estimate so that apples could be compared with apples. But of course, that could never be done because then Greenlink would have been kicked out months ago and how could Eddie have stalled the process.

Then there is the little issue about which dollars should be used, 2007 dollars as Greenlink did to keep the costs artificially down or those of 2011 as DRIC used, the time when the project would probably start. In fact, the 15% rate used by DRIC could be too low given the experience that we've had with construction projects in Windsor rising dramatically from the date of initial estimate to the date of construction starting.

The shoulder width issue arose again in the press release. Now I don't really know who's right but if there is a need for a wider shoulder, then the costs have to increase dramatically. I decided to find out what an expert said in this matter dealing with a situation involving a tunnel in the Windsor area previously. That expert is none other than the City's expert Sam Schwartz:

  • "The consultant (SCHWARTZ) criticized the DRTP for its planned feeder roads taking traffic through neighbourhoods and the safety of shoving big rigs into the tight confines of 95-year-old two-lane rail tunnel.

    "The biggest issue was the rail tunnel itself being used for trucks given that if a truck is perfectly centred it would only have 0.7 metre on either side," he said. "There is an unforgiving wall on either side."

    He described it as a "cattle-chute design."

    "I hate that for the crash potential," Schwartz said. "Then the only way to get a truck out is to approach from head on. It may start up again and be approaching you at 80 km/h."

    He said any accident or disabled vehicle in the rail tunnel would take 15 to 30 minutes to clear. In that time, 200 to 400 trucks could back up behind a stalled rig and "you never could recover the rest of the day from that."

    He said the DRTP offers no median or shoulders in the tunnel, while the feeder routes would cause chaos on local streets, especially in the already overburdened Dougall Avenue-E.C. Row Expressway intersection, listed as the main access point.

    "It would be trying to do too much at Dougall and E.C. Row -- even if they had a direct link to Highway 401," Schwartz said. "It really fails there from a safety point of view."

Gee, it looks like he wants a wider shoulder too. Just take a look at the movie that I had posted previously about the Russian tunnel that had no shoulders.

The interesting a part of the Press Release though had nothing really to do with costing. Read these two comments:

  1. "it is envisioned that an international border crossing including a new bridge would include a control centre, which would act as a control centre for both the crossing and the approach road."
  2. "Reiterating the above, an international border crossing including a new bridge location would include an operating and maintenance plan."

Those two statements seem to say as clearly as possible that the Senior Levels do not have the money to pay for the road to the Bridge. The road and bridge are lumped together. Now I know why the Province has never said how much money they would pay while the Feds have only talked about $400 million.

I assume that it is expected that the P3 investor is supposed to finance the road as well. Is that why Mark Butler talked about the Nexus/FAST Levy i.e. if you want to go across the border quickly, then you have to pay extra to do so. The investor would need to generate additional income!

That makes the investment virtually one of bankruptcy for any investor unless the Ambassador Bridge is put out of business right away.

It just gets uglier and uglier and stupider and stupider each day. The Bridge Co. people must be laughing themselves silly as the bureaucrats scramble since they are afraid to talk to them about a reasonable resolution of the border issue.

Our Mayor has completely lost his credibility as far as I'm concerned. His Greenlink proposal, like the Schwartz Report #1 and full tunneling, can be seen for what it is... nothing more than a stall tactic to put pressure on the Senior Levels to accomplish some agenda that only Eddie he knows about. Why he had to try to pull the wool over our eyes, I will never understand.

Volunteer Fights Back

If you read this Press Release closely, John Middleton is angry! He has just been removed as Chair of his Committee and he has no intention of taking it quietly.

Was he removed because he was outspoken or was there some other reason? Was he ever given a warning? Why was he not told the facts even though he has asked or was he?

Is this how unpaid volunteers on City committees are to be treated? Ask the Library Board members how they feel after the Joint meeting the other week!

As background, John has had issues with the City over his sign business and he has run unsuccessfully for Council in Ward 4.

Effectively, he accuses the City of taking away the Windsor Citizen Crime Prevention Committee's money and co-ordinator thereby jeopardizing their existence and perhaps leading to the closing down of a number of programs for citizens.

What is the truth? Follow this story closely to find out what is going on. We need to hear the City's side.

  • Press Release

    To all media
From: John Middleton
Chair Person
Windsor Citizen Crime Prevention Committee

On April 23, 2008 at 2:30 pm I went to a meeting with John Skorobohacz, with the impression of receiving an update on a review that was taking place on The Friends of Windsor Crime Prevention, when I arrived at the meeting, I was given a letter that stated I had been removed as Chair and a member of the committee because of my actions towards city employees, I asked to see the information against me, I was told to put my request in writing, which I did and forwarded it to Mr. Skorobohacz, the Mayor and all councilors on April 23, 2008 at 7:23 pm to which I haven't received any reply as of this release.

Administration through City Council is attempting to remove me without warning, no chance to hear or defend any information brought against me. I am not an employee of the Corporation, haven't had any training on their policies. I believe they are in violation of our Terms of reference and Mandate which our committee passed and council approved, I believe only the committee can remove me as Chair and a member, and if that is their wish I will go with no problem.

The committees issues with adminastration began with council report (live link 12864) and the passing of CR 279/2007 Council passed this with the intention of seeing W.C.C.P.C.'s programs have the resources needed to provide the Citizens of Windsor with programs like, Neighborhood Watch, Block Parent, S.T.E.P. Wipe out Graffiti, Park Watch and Adopt a Mail box. Great insight on councils part.

The license department on the other hand, seen it as an opportunity to fill a vacant position in their department and use funds that were intended to help the Citizens of Windsor to prevent CRIME, Through active participation and education. E.I. Earn a bike, Safety Squad / Pride players. Since the coordinators position / Supervisor of Compliance and Enforcement has moved to licensing we the committee have had to cancel or postpone indefinitely many functions we would have normally done with our coordinator. E.I. Volunteer appreciation event @ Safety Village, Boxing Fundraiser & P.R. event, and for the first time in 15 years our Safety Squad / Pride players will likely not performing for our kids.

I have raised issues with Clerks and Finance about monies that were taken from our 2007 budget, and answers have not been reasonable in my opinion. I have raised issues with Clerks about our Terms of referance and Mandate and them removing members. In my opinion they havn't followed procedure.

I Have been a volunteer on this Committee for nearly 5 years, and I can tell you I don't like what I see, I believe it is the intention of administration to put up so many roads blocks, that we can't provide the services council has asked us to do. I will be attending the Windsor Crime Prevention meeting at city hall May 1, 2008 at 3:30 pm I will be available for questions from the media.

John Middleton
Chair Person
Windsor Citizen Crime Prevention Committee
April 28, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

BLOG Breakingnews: DRIC Estimates Greenlink at $2.3-2.5B

Latest shot in the DRIC/City war over Greenlink.

Isn't it remarkable that the costing number is so close to the $2.6B that Gord mentioned in his column several times about Greenlink when the City claimed Greenlink would cost $1.566 - 1.676 and then increased it to $1.77B!

Of course, we all know that the costs are not real ones since they are estimates only and given that MegaProjects run amok as the Big Dig did, the real cost will probably be much higher I am sure.

As I wrote before:

  • "Eddie wants to exact a price, a big price for that consent, for being the host. How much is our Mayor looking for? Oh how about $1 billion as a starter. You think I'm kidding. How else do you explain the use of the number $2.6 billion by Gord Henderson three times in his column as to the cost of Greenlink? Just an error? I don't think so. Neither he nor his editors are that forgetful that Greenlink was priced at $1.6B. That was the the starting maximum number. Eddie intends to negotiate down from there obviously."


The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study team continues to assess the City of Windsor’s GreenLink proposal using information provided by the city. Focusing on the cost estimate for GreenLink, the DRIC study team has determined that the cost for GreenLink presented in October 2007 and the revised cost presented in March 2008 do not include all expenses that are needed to deliver a safe and efficient access road to a new border crossing. When all the essential safety features and other elements are added into the GreenLink proposal, the cost for taxpayers rises significantly.

In October 2007, the GreenLink cost as presented by the City of Windsor, ranged from $1.56 to $1.67 billion. The cost presented for GreenLink in March 2008 rose to $1.77 billion. The DRIC study team assessed the October cost estimate, using available information, and found that it did not include some crucial safety features, engineering criteria and other realities that need to be factored into the development of an accurate cost estimate for the roadway. In particular, the GreenLink estimate:

• Is based on a 7.3 km highway, not the 9 to 12 km highway needed to fully connect Highway 401 to a new bridge inspection plaza. Impact on cost estimate: High;
• Does not account for inflation and is presented in 2007 dollars. A more accurate representation would have been for GreenLink costs to be inflated using a standard rate to 2011 dollars, when construction will be fully underway. Impact on cost estimate: Increases total costs by approximately 15%;
• Does not include engineering and contract administration – both necessary elements in the delivery of the roadway. Impact on cost estimate: Increases cost by 10%;
• Specifies substandard shoulder widths and a 20-year storm drainage system. These design and road safety standards are not acceptable for this important international border system and additional costs would be incurred to bring them up to Ontario standard. Potential impact on cost estimate: Medium;
• Riskier approach to construction methods that could lead to extensive delays and substantial cost overruns, particularly in regard to excavating under the Grand Marais Drain. Potential impact on cost estimate: High;
• Does not include the costs of having a tunnel control centre, which would be required to operate the additional fire, life safety and mechanical ventilations systems necessary for the GreenLink tunnels. Impact on cost estimate: Medium;
• Does not include the ongoing operating and maintenance costs associated with additional mechanical, fire and life safety requirements for GreenLink. Impact on cost estimate: Medium.

The DRIC study team prepared a cost estimate for GreenLink that includes building a full length facility, with full shoulders, appropriate drainage design, a tunnel control centre, contract administration, and with costs adjusted to 2011 dollars. The DRIC study team cost estimates of the GreenLink concept range between $2.3 and $2.5 billion.

Long And Winding Road

Sensationalist photo? Absolutely. However, it really happened in a tunnel in California 6 months ago. Imagine all of those tunnels from Highway 401 to the border with both the DRIC and Greenlink roads. Has anyone figured out the risks from going into and out of tunnels so many times in so short a distance?

20 year storms, 100 year storms...that California highway had problems when it rained! And the picture shows the consequences. Big tunnel shoulders, narrow ones...who cares what the emergency services say about that! Wouldn't it be easier for Eddie's Tunnel if it had wide shoulders in case of an emergency!

Now that we know that Greenlink is really dead---oh sure more press releases are coming to demonstrate why and a counter-offensive to reply---how does the Mayor huff and puff now and will he bring an end to the ad blitz to at least save a few taxpayer bucks? Probably not. He needs the postcards as the basis of a lawsuit. He has no other choice unless he accepts what is done and declares a victory when the DRIC road is released.

"They added Shunnels because of me," he can claim as the Star and Henderson can praise and congratulate him for standing up for Windsor. If only he could have delayed the process a bit longer, he could have used this "victory" to propel him into his third term as Mayor.

He has to have a Plan; Eddie always has a Plan. We'll see it unfolding soon.

At least DRIC was gentle on Eddie this time around. They did not put a stake right into his heart as the Feds did before. Sandra and Dwight must have told them to be more gentle with the Mayor.

DRIC at least did not retain an expert do a public report in the same manner that the Federal Government had Cansult do one on the Schwartz Horseshoe road. You remember that one... it effectively ended the Schwartz Report by demonstrating that Schwartz's proposal was not acceptable.

There is no doubt that this first press release by DRIC is the first of several, gradually escalating in intensity. This one was rather mild I thought with the issues being very technical. I'm still waiting for Sam and Eddie to send me a note on my "October 29, 2007 The 69 Questions Sam & Eddie Must Answer." They must have been too busy.

I wonder what the subject matter of the next press releases will be. I hope there is one on the terrorism threat of Sam's Schwunnels. The number and size of the Schwunnels are the real risk to the border crossing if someone wanted to disrupt traffic, not the bridge itself, as was made clear in Port Huron.

You see Eddie is going to have to form a private corporation with him as the CEO for each of the Greenlink Schwunnels. Can you imagine the Directors fees for Eddie and all the Councillors who are on the Boards.

There is no doubt but that Cliff Sutts will be concerned again:
  • "For example, if there should be a terrorist act that causes extensive damage and injury to parties, it wouldn't be a burden on the taxpayers of the City of Windsor," he said."

Of course, Eddie as Mayor, based on his experience as the Chair of the Tunnel Commission, or is it the new Tunnel Corporation, will have to do is as he is told by outside counsel in this matter. Whew, he and his colleagues would be exhausted in attending so many Schwunnel meetings in one day at several hundred dollars a meeting.

I am not going to get into the technical side of this. It's the he said/she said type of war the really bores me and accomplishes little.

I was amused at how quickly Gord Henderson was able to get out his column since it was posted on Friday night. It came out almost as quickly as his column after the Mayor's State of the City speech. Obviously, it is designed to get us to think one way and to get us to react before we can think it through. It did not work before on Eddie's speech and I doubt it will work now.

I'm sure that we are supposed to take some comfort from Gord's description of the Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice-president with all of his degrees. And to be quite concerned about the DRIC expertise. Perhaps Gord should have asked some questions of Mr. Munfah as well to give a balanced perspective to his company concerning the following:

  • "$458m Big Dig settlement exempts firms from criminal charges in tunnel collapse
    January 23, 2008 By BostonGlobe Staff

    State and federal authorities announced a settlement of $458.2 million with the firms that designed and managed the Big Dig to avoid criminal charges and civil liability stemming from leaks, the fatal ceiling collapse, and other flaws that have plagued the project.

    Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw the Big Dig design and construction, will pay $407 million, and 24 other companies will pay about $51 million, US Attorney Michael Sullivan said this afternoon at a press conference.

    "Massachusetts Highway and the citizens of Massachusetts entrusted Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to act as their eyes and ears on the Central Artery Project," Sullivan said. "They grossly failed to meet their obligations and responsibilities to the citizens of Massachusetts and the United States."

    Approximately $415 million of the settlement money will be placed in a special trust fund and used to pay for future Big Dig costs and repairs. The settlement allows authorities to seek additional damages from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff in the event of a major failure in the project in the future causes more than $50 million in damage.

    The agreement, which the Globe first reported in today’s paper, will allow Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to avoid state criminal charges in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle. She died on July 10, 2006, after concrete panels weighing 26 tons fell and partially crushed the car she and her husband were riding to Logan Airport."
And do not forget how much the Big Dig was to cost at the beginning--about $3B-- and how it escalated to about $15B. Did Gord ask about that? We know that Greenlink's number is too low for a number of reasons already.

Gord's tendency of name calling is getting tedious already. Sticks and stones work better. The crack about the "former librarian" may help explain why the Library System is in such a mess due to the actions of the Mayor and Council. If one wants to talk about "petty vindictiveness," this is a prime example that is resulting in the destruction of our Library System. I cannot believe that a grudge is being held that long against the institution itself because of one man. Absolutely asinine if true.

I did like this line though:

  • "Nasri Munfah ... sounded like a irritated professor going over an incompetent pupil's term paper"

The picture I had in my mind as I read this was Eddie scolding and lecturing down to his Councillors at the Council meetings. You know "Spit it Out" and all that.

Wow, we're up to 10,000 residents who have sent in postcards. The postal system has become extremely efficient if postcards can be sent out last week, returned to City Hall and counted, all to meet Gord's Friday column deadline. Have you ever seen the Postal Service and our City act that quickly before?

I guess that 10,000 responses after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in total is better than just 3,000. I wonder if the 3,000 were included in the 10,000 number. No matter, Eddie's target of 20 to 30,000 postcards received will clearly be met so that there will be political justification for the lawsuit to be started soon.

I expect when the DRIC announcement is made that it will be a very big show with lots of high priced politicos mulling around. Of course the Mayor and Council will snub it, again. On the other hand, if they had any sense of theatrics, and they don't given what is happened to the Capitol, it would be lots of fun to have them holding picket signs and marching around chanting "DRIC MUST GO" and "2-4-6-8, DRIC WE DON'T APPRECIATE." I wonder if Dwight and Sandra would shout back along with MTO's Dave Wake "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG."

Imagine if the police were called out to keep separate the two warring chant lines. Now that is real drama for the 6 o'clock National news and the political talk shows for the weekend. That's better than the Believe Windsor-Essex project for getting Windsor in the news and cheaper too!

I was very interested in reading Eddie's remark:

  • "It's really embarrassing and unfortunate that DRIC has really become a political process," Francis said. "They have really arrived at their conclusion, and they have sold the city out.

    "They should just come out and tell people what their final conclusions are."

It's very much like hiring a world renowned, independent expert who is going to look at the situation and come up with what makes the most sense and then finding out the following:

  • "Toronto lawyer David Estrin, the city's border traffic expert, outlined a $2.2-million legal game plan for himself...

    A document obtained by The Star in which Estrin outlined his border "work plan and budget" shows how he originally planned to tackle the province and federal governments' "nine-point plan" -- which focused on making E.C. Row Expressway a border truck route -- and fight off proposals by the Ambassador Bridge and DRTP.

    He told council his hiring of a transportation planner and govern- ment/media relations expert were vital to help council achieve its objectives.

    The transportation expert would come up with a traffic bypass plan, he told them, while the media expert was needed to ensure council's position was well presented locally, provincially and federally, according to the document...

    But to fight the DRTP, Ambassador Bridge and the city's rail land use bylaw before the Ontario Municipal Board, the lawyer's fee schedule was much more elaborate...

    The total to fight DRTP, Ambassador Bridge and the railway lands use bylaw was $1.87 million plus GST, he told council -- bringing the overall proposed sum to $2.2 million."

To be fair, Sam at his presentation at the Cleary said that no one could force him to do anything to jeopardize his good-name and I am certain that he meant it and acted professionally. However, we read what it appears someone wanted him to be hired to do which was to arrive at a pre-determined solution. That makes the City's actions political too doesn't it?

Anyway the road fight is over except to hope that the road is actually built. I have my doubts whether this will really happen or whether we get the at-grade solution since money is drying up with both Senior Levels.

Now all we need is for the Governments to throw in the towel when they recognize that the Bridge Company has won and negotiate something proper with them so that we can get this border matter off of our table.

One last small point. Do you think that Eddie's favourite movie is "The American President" with Mike Douglas or that he just rented the video from Blockbuster. Eddie said:

  • "This is a serious project that requires serious consideration"

That reminded me of what President Andrew Shepherd said in the movie:

  • "We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them."

Oh well, movies/real life, who can tell the difference these days.

Blogmeister's "WE DID" Advertising Campaign

Jim, Jim, Jim...I got so teary eyed when I read your Publisher's message in the Star on Saturday.

I wanted to get your message out to my friends across the country. I wanted to send it out to them by e-mail as soon as possible. The only trouble was I couldn't find it on the Star online or on the Windsor Star Digital Edition. Frankly, I had no intention of wasting a good part of my weekend typing it all out.

Not much of a commitment there, Jim. Hard to get the message out when the message is invisible even on your own websites.

Those were tears of laughter by the way. I could not believe you were really serious.

In reading through everything that you wrote, I got goosebumps. Well actually to be honest, when I pulled out the wrapper and saw that it was tied into Eddie's full-page, coloured, taxpayer-paid Greenlink ad, I knew I had been goosed.

You see Jim you forfeited your right to tell me and others in Windsor what to do as publisher of the leading media outlet due to your newspaper acting as a cheerleader and enforcer for the failed Mayor of this City. You have not lived up to your responsibility to us, your readers.

It is all because of the Bridge Company, Jim. I know it now and so do most others. Your main Columnist gave it away, in obvious desperation, a few weeks ago by telling us what this is really all about. Just like the time when your newspaper supported DRTP. When it was clear that they had no chance, your paper dropped its support of that project. Your newspaper is now prepared no matter what to support a Mayor who promises to help beat that Bridge Company too and calls it the "enemy."

The Star changed horses in mid-stream but will still lose its bet. More importantly, you are losing your credibility with your readers. Just look at your own Forums to have that demonstrated clearly. Here's what we learned from Gord:
  • "Gray understood what was at stake. An economic nationalist, he recognized that having the nation's most critical border crossing owned and operated by a private company, a foreign controlled one at that, would not be in Canada's best interests. He knew that real countries, serious countries, don't let private companies run their borders."

You have let the Mayor get away with just about everything, with the odd time to give him a slap on the wrist to pretend that you are doing your job as a newspaper, just to accomplish your newspaper's agenda.

But really, Jim, do you believe that under the leadership of this Mayor the City has gone anywhere? Was it really worth it to let this City die just so that you could achieve your agenda for a public Bridge. I would not think so since you now see the need for a "Believe Windsor Essex" project.

No, Jim, you and the others thought that you could intimidate and threaten the Bridge Company Owner into selling out cheaply and that all you needed was a bright young man to help achieve this task.

It is out and out plain Xenophobia. There is no other word to describe it. He was never going to run away. The Star of all institutions should have known that. He fought the Canadian Government and got a settlement of the lawsuits which some believe that the Government is trying to reopen using Bill C-3 rather than FIRA. It is pretty clear after the SPP meeting that the Bridge Company has won since the DRIC project was virtually ignored. Did you report that in your paper?

Isn't that the reason Jim that you have never done a major story on the Ambassador Gateway project with plenty of photographs too? The Americans can close down I-75 for 18 months and this City can't afford to have a temporary road closing at the Ambassador Bridge for repairs. Once people see what is actually being done on the other side of the river they will fully understand that no Government is so dumb as to duplicate all of that only a half a mile down the road.

You should have been promoting cooperation between the City and the Bridge Company and forcing the Mayor to do so as well, especially early on in his Mayoral career. Imagine what would have been accomplished over the last few years. Instead of stalling, wasting millions on lawyers and consultants, and threatening lawsuits, we would have had progress. The Senior Levels could never have beaten a combination of the City and the Bridge Company. I know that and so do you and that is to your newspaper's shame.

You stopped doing your job as a responsible critic and for that, you do not deserve the thanks of Windsorites nor credit for your self-promotion now.

You need a feel-good campaign Jim because the City is in the doldrums; this city is sinking fast. Your Advertising department knows it best of all. Can you imagine their bottom line but for Eddie's massive ad campaigns and those of the Development Commission. I'm sorry that you feel guilty and believe that it is necessary to repent. But it is too late to do that.

Instead of trying to do things to improve the situation, all that our City and Economic Development Commission can do is waste money on advertising blitzes. Mind you, that's pretty good for your newspaper too at a time when the economy is pretty bad and people are finding it difficult to pay for advertising. Your paper provides "the only daily venue for local, regional, and national advertising" as it so proudly points out on the Canwest newspaper website.

It's funny Jim, I spoke to one of your competitors recently in the advertising game and he said that this is the first time when the economy has turned sour that his income hasn't increased. As the economy gets worse, normally business people spend more to get customers into their business establishments. Not this time around. He said that all you need to do is to look at all the closed down buildings to understand why there is little advertising money around. But it's okay for you Jim, you got your full-page, taxpayer paid ads!

I'm troubled by your campaign Jim. I'm troubled because there is a disconnect with the reality of this region. We don't need more cheerleading and more feel-good campaigns. We need positive action to accomplish results. Do you remember Jim only a few years ago when this region had a per capita income that was the second or third highest in Canada. We did not need ad blitzes to tell us how to make us feel. We felt good about ourselves because we had money in our pockets to spend.

Don't tell us about all the good things in Windsor, Jim. We already know about them. Our problems are the lack of money since the monument to ego, the East end arena, has sucked it out of our budget, the highest unemployment rate in Canada, a high property tax rate, 86% water levy increases, low house pricing, mortgage foreclosures, no economic diversification campaign other than taking a train to Toronto, a Mayor and Council playing entrepreneur with my money without the skills required to achieve success and on and on and on until it gets too depressing to continue.

As is typical with the Star, one needs to read to the end of the story or of a message to understand the issues. You said it in exactly the same manner that I have been saying it for so long on this BLOG. Except when I say it Jim, I'm accused of being a whiner and a naysayer. But you will win awards and the thanks of the City Establishment as you promote yourself as the City's and the Region's big booster.

  • "We need to get our message out that Windsor is open from business. We need to let Canada, our American neighbors and the world know that we are hungry for new business and new investment."
Open for business!!! Windsor???

Sure, Jim, thanks to our Mayor trying to chase our smartest and youngest out of town in his Jobs Today joke and making it difficult for any investor to put his money into this City, we have become the laughing stock across Canada. Tell me, and be honest about it, which other City is fighting to prevent investment of over $2 billion in Government and private enterprise infrastructure projects that would create 10 to 15,000 highpaying jobs that are desperately needed. You don't threaten lawsuits; you work with the parties to achieve a solution.

You know what Jim... if you want to help, join my campaign. It is time that your newspaper started acting like the leading media outlet and started doing its job as a responsible newspaper. It is time that you do your job as Publisher as well to clean out some of the baggage that your paper has been carrying for years. Baggage that has hurt this City.

I'm going to call my campaign the "WE DID" campaign. Here's how it goes:

  • WE DID work with the County, not fight them
  • WE DID work with Detroit to make our region stronger not just throw money to barge into their events to pretend it means co-operation or hold out hopes of a Tunnel deal
  • WE DID work with our University to make its new Engineering Complex, regardless of where it is located, the intellectual R&D centre of the automotive industry in North America
  • WE DID work with the Bridge Company to build its Enhancement Project now
  • WE DID work with the Senior Levels to build a road to the Ambassador Bridge that makes sense now
  • WE DID work with investors who brought us new and exciting innovative ideas in the emerging technologies while helping our existing companies new ways to prosper
  • WE DID set up an Economic Development Commission that did more than just look for new brochures but actually found jobs and brought new industry to the region
  • WE DID work with Governments and private enterprise to create 10 to 15,000 new jobs to tide us over until the time that we have diversified our economy
  • WE DID fix our potholes and our sewers and our watermains and stopped wasting taxpayer money
  • WE DID reduce taxes rather than find new ways to spend tax money on entrepreneurial dreams
  • WE DID encourage people to revitalize our downtown and not just allow sprawl in the suburbs
  • WE DID create trust with our citizens by ending secret, in camera meetings and create an open and transparent City government
  • WE DID allow a garage to be built in Sandwich

Do you get my drift, Jim? You see my campaign is a "past tense" campaign. It is a campaign of achievements and accomplishment of what we can easily do and can do now to make our lives better in Windsor. I want us to build on our solid foundation and stop constructing castles in the air. I want something achieved that is practical and doable and am tired of artistic renderings and theatrical performances by imported superstars who tell us to what we are "entitled."

You see Jim I like results not THINK BIG DREAMS. I guess I am kind of funny that way. If you think you might want to help out, then you know where to reach me.