The Government of Ontario Should Be Spending Its Money on Fixing What Is Currently in Place

There has been much discussion in the political debate over how to solve the heavy congestion and congestion delays that characterize the Toronto-Hamilton, Ontario, corridor. After all, Toronto, the largest city in Ontario, spends…

The Government of Ontario Should Be Spending Its Money on Fixing What Is Currently in Place

There has been much discussion in the political debate over how to solve the heavy congestion and congestion delays that characterize the Toronto-Hamilton, Ontario, corridor. After all, Toronto, the largest city in Ontario, spends $620 million a year on light rail transit to whisk millions of people from one part of the city to another. Meanwhile, we average about 96 hour long traffic jams per year in the Toronto-Hamilton corridor, according to the U.S. D.C. Smart Growth Council.

Many critics of the current transit system are concerned that any significant investment in new infrastructure will probably be structured as a way to offset proposed congestion pricing as Toronto Mayor John Tory has proposed. This stands in stark contrast to the infrastructure projects that have been characterized as a way to avoid congestion by Doug Ford’s government, specifically its $1.7 billion plan to rebuild Highway 417, a section of road that runs roughly between Highway 416 and Highway 401 in Ontario. According to the Ford government, the purpose of this infrastructure project is to improve connectivity to other major North American cities, notably Montreal and Toronto, by creating an additional artery to the heart of the Toronto-Hamilton corridor. “At the heart of the Government of Ontario’s plan to give Ontario families ‘One Government’, from the GTA to Ottawa to Quebec, we’re investing the right infrastructure to get us to our destination and get us home safely,” explained Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, during a briefing session in August 2018. The province’s transportation minister, Steven Del Duca, added that “Our mega plan enables us to directly connect our economic engines, companies and our most important markets, and deliver for the people of Ontario.”

It is true that the government of Ontario announced on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that it will build the Highway 413 Spur, a 9.3-kilometer express toll lane between the GTA and Hamilton. As part of the project, at least one toll will be charged for the journey through the Spur. These tolls, which will increase with use, will be paid by travellers on Highway 417 and along the 2.3-kilometer stretch of the express highway. The express express toll lane will be located in the vicinity of the Eglinton Crosstown Transit Expansion Project, a plan to add bus rapid transit to the City of Toronto (near a meeting point between the express highway and the TTC routes). The province’s transportation minister described the Spur as “a major step forward to bring this part of the GTA on par with the rest of the province.”

Though a new express express toll lane may very well help alleviate the congestion and gridlock that confronts Toronto commuters, experts also strongly believe that the government of Ontario should be focusing its efforts on fixing what is currently in place to alleviate congestion in the Toronto-Hamilton corridor. Since 2013, Transportation Development and Investment Ontario (TDI) has been conducting a $1.5 billion project called the Highways 61 West and 9 Expansion. The project involves building a new express express toll lane on Highway 61. The project would free up three lanes of congestion currently experienced in the Toronto-Hamilton corridor and ease traffic in the downtown core, where many Ontarians work. The construction of the express toll lane has since stalled, with the Ministry of Transportation announcing in March 2018 that it will not proceed with the $1.5 billion expansion and will instead revamp the transportation master plan, a provincial program to create transportation systems.

Unfortunately, TDI is relying on private investor dollars to pay for the construction of this express toll lane. The chief executive of TDI, Gautam Kanode, estimated that a toll of $20 could easily raise $700 million from private investors. With roads connecting Toronto, Kingston, Oshawa, Guelph, and Kitchener-Waterloo already being heavily taxed by private investors, it appears that the province’s taxpayers are once again underwriting funding for private infrastructure investors.

Considering the perceived need for investments in Ontario infrastructure, many will rightly question whether Ontario is wasting a significant amount of tax money simply by spending it on what it seems to consider a “public-private partnership.” If the province is truly determined to cut down on congestion, the government needs to spend its money on a few areas that have been stuck in gridlock since before the Province was first formed.

The private sector has already proved it can get us where we need

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