Friday, November 13, 2009

CBC The Current with David Suzuki and plans to 4 lane the North

Just happened to have CBC radio on this morning to catch the new of HWY 11 being closed and low and behold David Suzuki is hosting The Current! So far the show has been really good, talking about how there has been no action on climate change on the Federal level, but great strides are being done on the Provincial level.

Which leads me into the great letter that was in last weeks The Temiskaming Speaker - Letters to the Editor. The Letter refers to CBC's Dan Lessard interviewing Judy Skidmore on Points North about a plan to spend 15 billion dollars over 25 years to four-lane the Northern Ontario highway. There was some great talk on feed back, which I think the letter below expands on. Just wish some of our local politicians and maybe the Northern Mayors would get on board with the idea of updating and expanding the ONR, which is also one of the last regional railways left in Canada!! Just imagine if we had a a modern railway in North Ontario all those students, teachers and people stuck on the South end of Latchford might of had another option to get into the City.

You can also read the letter at

No to four-laning. Yes to expanding our rail system

Dear Editor:
The Craziest Idea I heard this Century: Four-lane Highway11 Northern Ontario.
The idea I heard on CBC”s Dan Lessard show by Judy Skidmore to spend 15 billion dollars over 25 years to four-lane the Northern Ontario highway is misguided and 30 years out of date. It reminds me of the Rip Van Winkle story of the politician that went to sleep in 1990 and woke up in 2010 thinking nothing has change. Every think has changed. In Ontario, we are no longer a rich province and are operating at a significant deficit. Our manufacturing strength is depleted and our economy needs a new direction and new thinking.

The billions of dollars we are spending on imported energy and imported asphalt hurts our economy. We also have a global, climate change crises that is being confronted by world leaders next month. The result of this will be additional costs on petroleum based products in the form of a carbon tax. So, we can expect energy prices to go up more, way up. With traffic volume already headed down from energy cost increases who will be able to afford to use these expensive highways.

Why is a $15B investment in a highway expansion a bad idea for people in the North? Because, private road transportation is the most expensive form of transportation (costing up to 50 per cent of average family income when road construction costs are included). In Sweden the CEO of Volvo AB determined that the car industry will not survive in the future and sold off their car division. A $15 billion dollar road system would trap us in our communities unable to move due to high energy costs. With no alternative low cost transportation system it would stall future development in the north and worst of all, would consume huge amounts of money needed to build a smarter transportation system. While the condition of current road could use some improvement, there is no business case that could rationalize any expansion.

What is the alternative?

The transportation energy model shows us the reciprocating engines used in cars are only less than 15 per cent efficient and that electric vehicles can travel five times as far with the same energy consumed. In an energy starved future, efficient electric vehicle that produce no Green house gas will be the future and the future will be soon upon us. Are we ready?
What would a Northern Ontario Energy strategy look like? For about 1/ 10th of the cost to four- lane we could put in a regional rail system that serviced communities across the North with timely service in modern cars with reasonable costs. To build this Ontario transportation network we could use steel rail manufactured in Sault Ste. Marie, gravel and concrete from the North and passenger rail cars manufactured in Thunder Bay. We could drive this transportation system with electric locomotives that take power from our renewable hydro electric plants. To travel throughout the North we would be able to use short range electric cars to deliver us to the rail station where they would be plugged in for recharge. Studies in countries that use public rail transport show it reduces overall transportation costs down to 8 to 10 per cent from the current 50 per cent we are now paying. This saves taxpayers billions in insurance and operating costs. The result would be a low cost transportation system that would make people accessible to each other, a primary requirement in economic growth. It would spur on tourism. If we want to reduce the accident rates and the death rate on the highway, reduce the insurance rates and amount of green house gas, if we want safer more relaxing and cheaper transportation rail is the answer. Highways are dangerous, weather dependent, stressful to use, expensive to maintain, and have a net costs six times that of public rail.
Highway expansion is an idea that belongs in the previous century along with the politicians that support it.

Let’s replace our current antique rail service with a modern efficient and cheaper form of transport that can serve the North. Instead of asking for $15B for a roadway expansion that we wouldn’t be able to use in the future, lets ask for $1B for a transportations system that will serve us for the next 100 years.

Government should:
•halt all four-lane construction and redirect these funds into modernizing our rail transport system while maintaining existing roadways if, volumes support it.
•Develop a provincial transportation policy that will function with high energy prices.
•Extend the GO transportation system throughout the province to create an efficient made in Ontario transportation system by adding a passenger rail track along side existing freight routes where required.
•Halt taxpayer subsidies to private auto industries. Let the market determine who survives not the government.
Let’s support leaders who promote building for the future not those stuck in the past.
The future belongs to those that plan for it,

Ambrose Raftis
Community Economic Development Specialist

No comments:

Post a Comment