Sometimes it takes a 91 year old to state the obvious. Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion met with Premier McGuinty recently to tell him that without some special funding through regional sales tax, tolls or increases in the gasoline tax, our gridlock problems in the GTAH will only get worse. McCallion recommended a regional sales tax because she opposes tolling on existing roads.
She noted that the federal government could have shown more foresight when they reduced the GST by letting municipalities have a portion of the reduction for infrastructure. In his response to the Mississaugua Mayor, the premier said he can’t give any assurances that funding to reduce gridlock will be available until Metrolinx (the provincial transit agency) completes its report expected next year on how to finance the $50 billion in transit improvements that the agency had identified in the “Big Move” proposal.
The Metrolinx proposal deals with transit only, however, and transit is not an option for many. For instance, transit does not work at all for the goods movement sector , which is the enabler of the regional economy. Everything we eat, sit on, watch and otherwise consume gets to us eventually by truck for at least part of the journey. Our 400 series highways are mobile warehouses where Just in Time Deliveries are timed sometimes to the minute to keep factories running. The Toronto Board of Trade looked at the gridlock problem and concluded that it is costing the economy $6 billion per year. That report was done a few years back and the real number is no doubt much higher today.
The improvements being planned for our transit system, while needed, will not likely improve gridlock because we will be experiencing a sharp increase in population over the next two decades and the added capacity will be quickly absorbed. The biggest highway improvements required today include further widening of the 401 west of Mississauga, Extension of the 427 to the Vaughan railway terminal, and protection of the routes for the Niagara to GTA and GTA west corridors.
Article by C. La Fong