Posted by: rbmcarriers | May 29, 2008

Windsor – Detroit Border Crossing Debate Getting Hot!

Where will the bridge be? Who shouts louder and longer? Who has more clout? Read the latest from Dave Battagello, reporting from the Windsor Star on May 26th.

Windsor council attacks DRIC in chambers

City council and its hired border experts took turns Monday blasting Ontario government officials who claimed they have given plenty of consideration to the city’s GreenLink border solution and adopted some of it.

“They didn’t take the best of it because their tunnelled sections don’t protect the neighbourhoods,” said Toronto lawyer David Estrin, council’s legal expert on border issues.

The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) team came before council to detail its plan for a new nine-kilometre border feeder highway in Windsor that features 11 short tunnels that would provide about 1.9 kilometres of coverage over the Huron Church-Talbot Road corridor.

But during DRIC’s 45-minute presentation on its proposed Windsor-Essex Parkway, Mayor Eddie Francis and council seemingly couldn’t wait for it to end. When it did, they struck angrily.

Council’s hired guns first fired back with their own hour-long rebuttal. Estrin criticized DRIC’s ongoing environmental process for a new border highway as being “an outstanding failure” and “highly problematic.”

Planner Peter Walker, hired by council, explained how in his findings GreenLink better achieves DRIC’s objectives than DRIC’s own parkway plan. It better protects people, with more people-friendly spaces and less overall community impact, he said.

Then several councillors started to question the DRIC team’s process to develop the parkway. They questioned why more of GreenLink was not adapted in the final plan. The city’s GreenLink alternative features twice as much tunnelling of the corridor and about 120 acres (33 per cent) more green space.

Francis had to warn councillors at one point to be careful with their comments because one possible strategy is to mount a legal challenge to DRIC. That was quickly followed by a city staff member carrying out 16,500 postcards sent in by local residents in support of GreenLink. They were placed on the council chamber podium.

The mayor frequently interrupted councillors’ questioning to interject his own, in a cross-examination of the DRIC team.

Despite city council’s criticisms, a half-dozen DRIC officials repeatedly defended their efforts and conclusions.

Ontario Ministry of Transportation representative Fausto Natarelli, the project leader, noted DRIC has spent 21/2 years and 300 consultation sessions reaching its conclusions.

“We have moved from at-grade roadway at the start and to the parkway,” he said. “That migration is indicative of how we are listening to the community. It’s a characterization of what we heard from the city (council), as well.

“We are very confident public consultation and what we heard has made its way into the parkway.”

Project leader Dave Wake added at least eight meetings have been held with Windsor’s representatives since August.

The government officials noted the final parkway proposal remains the most expensive road project per kilometre in Ontario’s history and will produce 12,000 full-time project-related jobs. Included in the project is 240 acres of green space on top of tunnelled sections — that range from 120 metres to 240 metres in length — of the planned six-lane below-grade road.

Costs for the new highway range between $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion.

DRIC’s next step is to release its preferred bridge and plaza locations in June, followed by public open houses in Windsor this summer where final feedback will be gathered.

The government team will then submit its final environmental assessment documents and recommendations at the end of this year for final federal and provincial cabinet approvals.

Construction could begin by late 2009 with a completion target sometime in 2013.

Windsor’s preferred GreenLink plan nearly doubles
the below grade tunnel coverage of the truck route.

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