Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Letters, We Get Letters

Stacks on stacks of letters. Here are some

1) Greetings from Chicago

It is so nice for us to be able to keep up with the news while we are away. Usually we have to wait until we get home and find the time to go through the old papers. We have been able to keep up with things through your blog.

2) [Re: The impact of 9/11 on Windsor/Detroit] This was one of your best ever Ed. A really good and heart felt assessment of this messy project.

3) [Re: "But Mayor Eddie Francis already has a vision of a bustling airport filling his mind's eye..."

I got it. Do you think Eddie's mind's eye may need glasses!"]

The best line ever!

4) I just read your blog on the airport cargo project and couldn't agree more with analysis of the situation. I have tried to open up peoples eyes to what is happening and to get the word out on the Windsor Star web site as "Aviator" in the comments area but I don't think anyone is listening. It now looks like city council fell for the sexy sales pitch of getting Windsor involved in the aviation industry.

I have been in the aviation business for many years and have to say that I can't think of an industry with more snakes, con men and dirtbag operators as the aviation industry. (with cargo being the worst) Now Windsor city council has been seduced by the idea and will surly be taken to the cleaners by everyone involved.

I personally would love to see the airport expand and do well but, Windsor airport has to walk before it can run. They should start with the basics and build from there but now the sharks have seen them coming and will sell them a gold plated project which will probably not be able to sustain itself.

I will continue to question the project, not because I am against it ( I am for it ) but because it looks like city council has no experience with aviation and needs to be pulled back from making lots of stupid errors as they blindly try to find their way through this.

Keep up the good work

5) Just a few thoughts on the Labour Day festivities.

By telling Eddie to stay away the Labour Council made him out to be the hard done by victim being bullied by the unions. Typical union misstep. Had they just remained quiet, he wouldn't have showed up, but Parent had to puff out his chest and play to the limelight one more time. I have an issue with union leadership. There isn't any. During the 101 day strike there was a marked absence of help from CUPE national as Jim and Jean were well in over their heads and sinking fast. Complete and utter chaos behind the scenes with no strategy and zero tactics. Not until the 7th week did national send an advisor to help, but whose head was not on the strike, but elsewhere.

Some grandstanding by CAW president Ken Lewenza got some press, but little other effect. His absence at the labour day parade speaks more to union un-solidarity as he would rather spend the time in Toronto than in his home town, probably because of Syd Ryan's presence. It was also hypocritical to see Masse and Comartin at the gathering. Where were they hiding during the strike? Front and centre when its safe to show their faces but nowhere to be seen when they actually have to take a stand and disclose their positions. Under orders perhaps?

The future of unions looks bleak, but not for the lack of need nor a lack of devotion by it's hard working, dedicated members. It's bleak because of a detached disinterest permeating the "leadership" and the absence of vision and competence.

6) As I was coming back from Ann Arbor this morning it dawned on me...
The I-75 roads to the bridge are almost done and they look great.

They started them after the DRIC proposal and all that has been done on this side is talk.

Mr. Moroun shouldn't worry about a new crossing downstream in his lifetime or his sons.

7) What would Eddie get for $20 million.

What you need for cargo. The door alone was $5 million. No kidding.

Let's not forget the maintenance crew needed for repairs and hanger for that.
Any cargo facility must have a repair building or planes don't fly when they have problems.
It doesn't work like the auto club.
And it has to be big enough to put a cargo plane into it securely in case of major repairs.

Eddie isn't thinking of what it takes because he has no idea about what it takes
to make planes fly.

Money, and lots of it with no bottom in sight.

8) I found your blog about 8 months ago , wanted to
let you know I appreciate the work you put into it ,
I consider it alternative media to the slants that the
few news organizations here present ,

as far as the current airport thing well ,
I used to work there & now I live nearby
so the subject interests me , when Eddie
started talking about many of these ideas , I started to
wonder about a few things ,...

there is a lot of land on the east side of the field but you really
have to know what your doing & have serious aviation experience to understand
what your doing...

for instance much, mostly industrial development has been
allowed to creep pretty close to runway 07-25 which
is getting pretty close to limiting a parallel gear up
landing on the grass next to the runway, do you remember
when a heavy cargo jet could not stop & went off the end of
that runway towards riberdy road? If the mayor envisions a
steady stream of heavy cargo aircraft all I can say is I
hope he doesn't paint himself in a corner & develop any
closer to any runways anywhere around the airport ,..
I may not know politics or business but I know that even under
good circumstances heavy cargo planes fully loaded need
alot of room , make lower approaches & climb slower & if
there is ever a problem , they need options ,...even more

Now me livin nearby, I happen to have a very small
field between myself & the runway which I would hope they
don't develop as the soft grass bleeds off speed better than
buildings full of workers ,...I'm not against the idea
I just hope they know what they are doing , also the Air carrier
business is very fickle always trying to underbid each other
companies come & go all the time ,...thats why I got out
of it

In these times I don't think its something we should paying for either
with the competition so strong its more of a gamble & like
everyone in Windsor I dont want our money wasted ,...

like the canal project which I still dont have a complete
understanding of its true use or purpose ,...

I had also wondered if you had any thoughts about the
windsor police , after having some "issues" of its own
switching to a,... I think it was 10 million dollar
encrypted radio system so the public cant listen
to its public servants at work ,...for our own privacy
because they say we wanted it ,...Even the media now must
rely on them to disclose their version of events..

I dont remember any options being discussed,...gotta love this kind of freedom
Anyway keep up the good work

9) Land in Windsor for pre-customs clearance or fly to a US port for free?
Someone isn't doing their homework.

Dayton is only a few hours away and more accessible to the greater US and the world
with development ready lands.

10) Windsor Airport is at least 5-8 years behind in development after London.
London airport is set already with ample room and warehouse space.
Windsor has 8-10 years of construction to even be competitive.
So why is Eddie rushing?
Election fever has begun!
Fix the airport!
Fix the roads!
Claim victory!

The election will be about as much fun as watching paint dry.

11) I don't know if you are aware of this memo from Natalie Litwin, President,Transport 2000 Ontario. I tthink this is fabulous. Talk about tell it like it is. I would think that if the pressure was put on the Minister of Transportation this should open some doors. You may have noticed that I am a strong supporterof the Ambassador Bridge. The memo is at the Transport 2000 Ontario. Again this appears to dynamite! If they can get some politicians on both sides of the border to read and understand this maybe we can get somewhere. Good luck with your cause.

Presentation to Dave Penfold, Policy Advisor to the Minister of Transportation
By Natalie Litwin, President, Transport 2000 Ontario
August 11, 2009.

Section 6.1(2) (b)(ii) of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act requires that an environmental assessment include “…alternative methods of carrying out the undertaking and alternatives to the undertaking.” Transport 2000 has reviewed the DRIC EA and has concluded that the EA failed to consider feasible alternatives to the undertaking and alternative methods in sufficient depth to make an informed decision.

Transport 2000 believes that a thorough exploration of “alternatives to” and “alternative methods” would question the need for the very expensive DRIC project. We argue that alternative methods and alternatives to the undertaking are not only viable but represent a more cost effective approach than the $4 billion we understand from your Ministry and from the Michigan Department of Transportation reports to be the cost of the combined U.S. and Canadian DRIC project.

1. Border Processing: The Canada Border Services Agency that is responsible for managing the nation’s borders announced in March of this year that it will publicly fund border services at some airports. CBSA already provides this service at Pearson Airport before international flights. CBSA has also developed efficient methods of processing freight both truck and rail. Unfortunately, delays at international borders have negatively impacted passenger rail to the point that they killed the Chicago Amtrac train that crossed into Canada to service Southwestern Ontario. CBSA’s charge of $1,500 dollars per train is hampering the launch of a second Amtrac train from Oregon to Vancouver. Surely, with the right political will, security methods for moving rail passengers over the U.S./Canada border can be streamlined to run more efficiently.

2. Travel Demand Forecasts: In the Planning Needs and Feasibility Study phase of the project the rosy forecasts projected for traffic at the Detroit crossing, and updated in 2005 in a report entitled, Travel Demand Forecasts need another serious review. We argue that the present economic downturn in Ontario’s manufacturing sector is not short-term, and when the economy recovers, Ontario’s business landscape will look very different. Further, it is well known that traffic at all the vehicular crossings between Michigan and Ontario have dropped drastically. The declining traffic levels are regularly reported in the media. Adding road and bridge capacity in the era of peak oil and climate change is yesterday’s solution. Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge (AB) was down over 14% in 2008. Traffic levels have been declining steadily since 1999. In contrast to what is generally claimed by supporters of the DRIC crossing, border wait times are not significant. A random sample from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website shows wait at AB at 5 minutes for commercial vehicles, 6 minutes for passenger vehicles. For the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron: 5 minutes for commercial; 5 minutes for passengers. From the Canada Border Services Agency website: AB commercial, no delay; passenger, no delay.

3. Intermodal Truck/Rail: In Europe, governments build intermodal terminals as a strategy to remove trucks from roads to reduce congestion, pollution and noise. In Canada, intermodal infrastructure is left to the private sector that claims no business case for that investment. Barrie, Peterborough and Oshawa are good candidates for intermodal terminals east and north of the GTA and would offer good incentives for business to locate there. Ontario should consider the quality of life and health of Ontarians and model its policy on building intermodal terminals on the European example. Furthermore, reduced congestion and reduced pollution may not represent a business case for the private sector, but it is a strong positive for Ontario’s overall economy.

4. Second Rail Tunnel: Sam Schwartz Engineering was retained early in the DRIC process by the city of Windsor to provide an approach on how to address commercial and passenger issues at the crossing. A new rail tunnel to accommodate “double-decked” (technically, double-stacked, 9ft.6in. high-cubed container) trains was their first recommendation. Now CP, joint owner with Borealis is asking for government funding to implement this recommendation. Although these high containers represent 5 to 10% of CP’s traffic, they are becoming standard with European shippers, so a new rail tunnel will increase shipments and allow CP to access a market that it is currently unable to compete for. The province of Quebec is supportive of this project since the containers come through the port of Montreal. The $400 million cost is a fraction of our estimate of the $4 billion cost of DRIC. The existing tunnel can effortlessly convert to passenger rail, but there are challenges, not insurmountable, in re-aligning existing rail traffic and in relocating a new railway station in Windsor. Schwartz had recommended a multi-modal facility at the airport linking ground, air and rail transport so the concept has some weight.

5. Increased Use of the Blue Water Bridge: Traffic on this bridge that connects Sarnia, Ontario with Port Huron, Michigan similar to all vehicular crossings, has experienced a considerable decline in traffic. Traffic at the Blue Water Bridge is lower today than when its second span was opened. A colleague recently drove along Highway 401 westbound near the approach to the 402 interchange and found no highway signs indicating driving distance and estimated travel times to Detroit using that route as an alternative to AB although the travel difference between the two routes is insignificant. A traffic forecast consultant to DRIC effectively stated that the need for a new international crossing would be deferred by six years if the public were aware of the travel times associated with using the Blue Water Bridge.
(Travel Demand Forecasts, Sept. 2005, p.124)

6. High Speed Rail: HSR in Canada may look impractical at this time but it is inevitable considering what has and is still happening in the rest of the world and taking into consideration the present U.S. government’s commitment to HSR infrastructure. The city of Windsor is in an excellent position to become a hub in the planned Chicago Hub corridor of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, etc. When HSR comes, and it will, the Windsor-Essex Parkway will be redundant.

7. If we add travel demand management and regional transit improvements to the above alternatives, the argument against building the DRIC project is very persuasive. Transport 2000 Ontario urges your Ministry to seriously reconsider. Road-based infrastructure has had its day – it is time to move into the future, and the future is rail.

In closing, there are two questions I must pose:

 There are three parts to the DRIC Project: The Windsor-Essex Parkway, the new bridge, and the plazas at either end of the bridge. Yet the review of the undertaking by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment dealt only with the Parkway. On the other hand, the Screening Report by the Federal Ministry of the Environment dealt with the Parkway, bridge and plaza. Why?
 Is there a precedent for a government to go into direct competition with a private enterprise such as the Ambassador Bridge with the potential to drive it out of business?

12) Looks like Eddie's micro management and king of the hill stance has gotten him into some time issues. Go figure.

He can't even make a meeting to complain about senior officials not making the meetings.

You just can't make this stuff up.