Thursday, November 22, 2007

Provincial Highway vs. West London Expressway

A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow was Ontari-ari-ari-o's theme at Expo 67. Soon there was standing room only in the Greater Toronto Area. To deliver on "a place to grow" the NDP government pushed through massive expansion of London -giving the City six million dollars to plan for population and infrastructure growth.

Soon, the City's north Urban Growth Boundary was set along the new Middlesex County line, and Community Plans were approved without provision for an in-city expressway ring and associated interchanges. See map of conceptual ring road in August 2006 London Free Press.

The City's dream of a west industrial-strength expressway was shunted to a long-term Transportation Master Plan (TMP). The controlled-access mid-block corridor would run from the 402 only as far as Oxford St W, leaving north-bound traffic to dog-leg eastward across the Oxford St Bridge and then north through Hyde Park.
Meanwhile, approval of west subdivisions proceed as do estate lot severances in the county. These events complicate designs for the connection of two arterial roads (in two different municipalities) for a wide peripherial highway ....even as plans for servicing the city's southwest sector are pursued.

What then, does the City's transportation vision reveal? Two things: Optimum mobility in London and region is not an objective, and fully-functional peripheral roads on the west side and across the north cannot be planned and built without Provincial involvement, and without cooperation of and benefit to all impacted municipalities.

Advocated is a Westdel Bourne Rd river crossing with a short easterly alignment over converged CN/CP tracks at the southern terminus of the Denfield Rd. This is the key link in what is obviously a regional highway connecting Highway 4 at Clandeboye (south of Exeter) to the 402/401 .
The cross-river stretch from Oxford to Gainsborough streets can be a 4-laner initially. The rest of the route on mainly existing road allowances is a 2-laner which can gradually add extra lanes as needs arise -given foresight of adequate building set-backs.

Since the section of Highway 4 between Clinton and London was not down loaded in 1998, any southern re-routing from Clandeboye through Denfield and rural west London would logically be a provincial responsibility. With a Provincial Highway designation, the costs of engineering, construction and ultimate maintenance would not fall entirely on Middlesex and London taxpayers.

Unlike the TMP's short mid-block expressway, the Highway 4 re-route actually intersects all east/west city arterials. With no disruption to productive farmlands, it benefits both commuters and truckers, and gives northern communities (from Durham through Exeter) direct access to GTA and NAFTA trade routes.

Building a bridge to link a couple of expandable arterial roads enhances London's western gateway -and with Provincial involvement opens up an affordable trade/tourism route for the whole region. Surely, this makes more sense than forever plotting a far-off expressway well beyond the City's fiscal and geographic reach.

Let's focus on a seamless rural/urban interface rather than static separation. Build the connection and industries will come; miss the opportunity and more northern factories will close. If champions emerge, the Highway 4 diversion with an interchange at the 402 and improved intersections at Oxford St. W, Gainsbourough, Sunningdale and Fanshaw Park roads can be operational within a decade.

First, such highway diversion has to get on the Transportation Ministry's Five-year Southern Highways Program. And, before Queen's Park central planners put their stamp on Places to Grow in S/W Ontario, the South West Economic Alliance (SWEA) might provide traction for a 519Transportation Action Plan.

The big questions:
1. How many more elections before London's council shows the practical foresight of their predecessors who expedited completion of the Guy Lombardo Bridge linking old Hutton Rd with Wonderland Road?
2. Where are the champions across other mid-western municipalities and at Queen's Park for such strategic initiative?
3. Where's the concerted push of regional trade and tourist associations -and area Chamber's of Commerce?

The message then, to leaderships of all stripes in the Counties, the Towns and the City which Highway #4 services:
Think Strategically. Act Regionally. Take a Stand. Get it Done.

Since affected municipalities can be slow to present a united front,individuals and business associations might consider making direct submissions for the required Provincial needs/justification study to local MPPs, the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, the Minister of Trade and the Minister of Tourism. Find the MPPs at:

Comparison of MOT's (2007 - 2011) construction maps for Southwest and Central Ontario indicates the Province has pretty well abdicated new highway work in the area north of London and west of Owen Sound, while concentrating its resources (inc'l s/w fuel and vehicle license taxes) in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
A long article by Dr. Glaeser of Harvard, on the sad fate of Buffalo NY, highlights the real genius of democracy: Business leaders and voters are ultimately to blame for procrastination leading to regional economic decay and population decline. Apathy is complicity.
PS 3 If you see far-reaching benefits of this proposal, get on the advocacy bandwagon and continue to push political buttons.

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