Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BLOGWorldexclusive: DRIC Investment Grade Traffic Surveys

They were supposed to be out over a year ago. But they were never released.

They were then supposed to be released in June of this year. But again, they were not released.

My understanding is that there are 2 investment grade traffic surveys that were paid for by the Canadian Government, one in 2008 and one in 2009, so that the Feds could convince P3 operators that the DRIC project made sense.

Hundreds of pages were produced, 608 pages to be exact if the Government document is correct, that should give us the Government's expert's best guess as to traffic volumes, the real justification for spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a P3 bridge, road and plaza instead of allowing the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project to go forward.

Well the BLOGmeister was not going to be denied. After filing a Federal Freedom of Information application, here is what was produced of those hundreds of pages.

Nada, nothing, zero, zilch.

Not one single page of the traffic surveys was produced, not even redacted versions. They are there but mere taxpayers who paid for them cannot see them.

More importantly have Government officials who have to decide whether the DRIC project should go forward or not seen them? If not, are they being deceived since key information is being kept from them? Deliberately!

Are P3 investors going to be lied to as well or are Governments going to "guarantee" them an exorbitant rate of return just so that the DRIC project is built regardless of the ultimate cost to taxpayers?

A surprise...hardly.

My inside sources tell me that the traffic projections do NOT support what the Government wants us to believe. Traffic volumes have tanked. After all, why else has the DRIC project been delayed for almost 2 years. Why else has Minister Baird's justification for the project changed drastically:

In other words, we will spend billions today when the new DRIC bridge is not needed in the hopes that maybe at some time in the future, if traffic ever picks up to the 1999 volumes, we might need one. It looks like his time period is 20 years from now, similar to what Michigan's MDOT director said in the past. Never mind that all the crossings' volumes in the region are down and that another crossing could hurt the existing crossings financially. The Blue Water Bridge has already been downgraded by S&P over traffic concerns.

Remember how proper management of a bridge, new technology and away from the border customs control has allowed a "cow bridge" to become the #1 border crossing between Canada and the US! And without spending billions of taxpayer dollars. No one seems to consider this when talk of spending billions comes up.

By the way, 20, 30, 40 years out is past the DRIC mandate period so such an approach is probably improper as justification for the project since that has never been studied.

Anything to try to wipe out the Bridge Company. That is what this is all about. It cannot get any clearer.

Poor, poor Sean O'Dell. Imagine if he has to take these news stories into his Minister and also to the Minister of Finance. I wonder if they will feel any embarrassment about wasting taxpayer money:
  • "Cross-border Ontario truck traffic still in a freefall

    TORONTO -- All but one Ontario border crossing reported lower commercial traffic numbers in June 2009 compared to the same period from the year before, according to the most recent report by the Public Border Operators Association.

    Truck traffic specifically, went down about 26 percent in June compared to 2008 (from 650,000 crossings to about 483,000)

    Year to date, commercial traffic crossings all border points with Michigan and New York are declined by nearly a million vehicles to 2.8 million between January to June, from 3.8 million in 2008.

    Only the Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge in northeast Ontario is the only crossing that had positive numbers. It posted an 18 percent improvement compared to June 2008, although, more than likely, the uptick is a result of traffic being diverted from the Seaway International Bridge in Cornwall, which has been closed for a couple months because of a land dispute between Canada Border services and the nearby Mohawk community. For the year, the crossing is still down about 5 percent.

    Other than the Seaway Bridge, the border gateway with the steepest truck traffic decline throughout 2009 remains Windsor-Detroit. The Ambassador Bridge is down 31 percent for the first six months of 2009. And traffic dropped 32 percent in June from the same month is '08. The nearby Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, however, declined by a whopping 47 percent this year.

    They're followed by the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia (-24 percent for trucks) and the International Bridge in the twin Sault Ste. Maries (-23%).

  • "Canadian exporters seen hurting until 2010

    OTTAWA -- A sluggish world economy that runs the risk of further financial turmoil will hobble Canadian exports until at least 2010, a report warned Thursday.

    In its latest assessment on the world economy, Export Development Canada forecast exports will fall by 21% in 2009 and rise by 6.6% in 2010...

    The auto sector is expected to repeat 2008's decline of 22%."

  • "Border traffic hits the brakes

    Blue Water Bridge sees fewer vehicles after rules kick in

    Traffic on the Blue Water Bridge has decreased since new identification requirements took effect June 1.

    In the first two months since the stricter rules started, about 30,000 fewer personal vehicles crossed the bridge between Port Huron and Pointe Edward compared with the year before, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    But Chief Ron Smith, spokesman for Customs, said the traffic decline was caused more by the struggling economy than the requirement that everyone have an approved document, such as a passport or enhanced driver's license.

    "I honestly believe it has more do with the economy than the document requirements," he said, adding that decreases correlate with factories closing and other such economic setbacks. "A lot of people are being very careful about how they spend their money."

    In June 2008, 153,222 personal vehicles crossed the bridge. This June, 134,276 crossed. Similar numbers were true for July: 176,912 in 2008 and 166,118 this year.

    It wasn't just the number of passenger vehicles that declined. Each of the categories tracked by border protection decreased, including trucks, trains and planes.

    In June 2008, 341 trains passed from Port Huron to Ontario, 116 more than the 225 that crossed in 2009. Similar numbers hold up for July, when 260 crossed this year and 342 crossed in 2008.

    Personal aircraft crossings are down: 75 in June and July 2008 and 44 in the same months this year.

    Smith said the reason probably is the same as for vehicles: the economy.

    With less work being done at automobile plants, for example, there is less reason for cargo to pass between the two countries, Smith said.

    "Just as the truck traffic has slowed, so have the trains because they are transporting commodities," he said.

    Michigan does more business with Canada than any other state -- $67 billion in 2008.

    There are similar trends at border crossings elsewhere.

    Some businesses in tourism-dependent border communities blame the new border requirements for making a bad year worse.

    At Martin's Fantasy Island, an amusement park in Grand Island, N.Y., about 10 minutes from the Canadian border, "our Canadian business is way off," spokesman Mike McGuire said. Nearly one-third fewer Canadian families of four have come for discounted "Canadian Wednesdays" compared with last year, he said. He blames the recession, a soggy summer and the passport rule.

    The park is in the Buffalo border crossing region, which saw a 13% decline in privately owned vehicles in June and July compared with the same period last year.

    Customs officials said the new border requirements make crossings safer and more efficient and aren't to blame for declining numbers. Fewer people have been coming to America via land borders since 9/11, said Colleen Manaher, director of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which mandated the changes.

    Compliance has been high in the new program; 95% of affected travelers arrive at the borders with proper documents, she said.

    "You have to look at this in totality," she said. "There is the recession, exchange rates, gas prices. There's border violence, there's weather."