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No economic justification for some big ticket projects

I hope that Liz Sandals is correct that “GO big issue in election” (Tribune May 6).
The context for this being a big issue is the reality that Ontario has to be extremely strategic in the investments made in transportation infrastructure. As a province with continuing and expanding debt, we cannot afford to waste money on projects with no economic justification.
This economic reality is well documented in the underreported long-term economic forecast for Ontario released by the minister of finance on April 2. Very-low-growth decades lie ahead for Ontario, so the province must ensure that investment in infrastructure is strategic and effective.
Mistakes in the past illustrate how not to make decisions. The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all assert that the province needed to spend $1.4 billion on a second bridge to Detroit (or rather to nowhere, as  columnist Jeffrey Simpson recently noted in his “looming white elephant” column in the Globe and Mail). No such need exists. The current bridge is well below capacity and cross-border traffic is essentially at equilibrium.
What is needed, at a small fraction of the cost of a new bridge, is a new high-clearance railway tunnel that would allow efficient double-decker container railcars to be used for cross-border freight and would free up the existing rail tunnel for a high-speed passenger-train connection Toronto-Chicago.
A business case has been made for the tunnel – there is no business case for the bridge, because it is not possible to make the bridge investment profitable.
Locally we cannot afford both enhanced GO trains and a new expressway to replace Highway 7. The right choice is obvious. The GO expansion has an excellent business case.
A new Highway 7 has no business case, because it would raise the per-vehicle-kilometre cost of using the highway from three cents a kilometre to 40 cents a kilometre – a 12-times increase in costs with insignificant benefits in saving of time of travel.
I will be very interested in seeing how much attention is paid to candidates’ views on  strategic decision-making in the upcoming campaign.
Hugh Whiteley
Guelph

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