City officials hope meetings next week with province will lead to infrastructure funding, solution to nuisance bears
City leaders are taking a big wish list with them to a major conference between provincial government officials and Ontario municipalities that begins Aug. 19 in Ottawa.
The biggest item on the list for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) meeting is funding for Maley Drive. City council also hopes to make some headway in getting the province to take back responsibility for nuisance bears, something that has been take up a substantial amount of Sudbury police time.
AMO brings together top municipal politicians and staff from across the province and gives them a chance to meet, not only with each other, but with Premier Dalton McGuinty and his cabinet. More than 400 private meetings are scheduled between provincial officials and local leaders, allowing them to make their pitch for municipal priorities one-on-one.
But the top priority will be Maley Drive, which the city will push for funding in meetings with transportation minister Bob Chiarelli. The $129-million Maley project would dramatically reduce traffic on The Kingsway and Lasalle Boulevard, routing vehicles to a loop around the city, allowing heavy trucks and other traffic to bypass central roads in the heart of Sudbury. For example, it would take between 4,000-10,000 cars a day off The Kingsway and Lasalle alone, making those roads far easier to traverse.
The project has been on the books since the 1980s, but no city government has ever been able to convince the feds and province to come up with their one-third share of the cost. The price tag has also risen substantially, rising by $14 million since 2009 alone, so getting started is key to controlling costs.
What’s different this time around is city staff have broken the project down into sections, in hopes of getting partial funding for key elements of the work.
Part one would complete a section from Municipal Road 35 to Lasalle Boulevard, at a cost of $13 million. Part 2 would see $54 million spent on the Lasalle Boulevard to Barrydowne Road section of the plan, and is the most crucial part, since it involves building a new road. The final section, costing an estimated $26 million, would include the area from Barrydowne to Falconbridge Road.
In addition to actual road construction, staff has broken down the plan to include $8 million for engineering and design costs, $6 million to relocate utility services, $15 million for Hydro One relocations and modifications, and $7 million to buy the required land.
Key to making progress is completing the $54 million section, which would build the new road to connect Maley with the Lasalle Extension. That would complete the loop around Sudbury, but the roads wouldn’t be fully upgraded and widened, so drivers wouldn’t get the full benefit.
David Shelsted, director of roads with Greater Sudbury, told city councillors Aug. 14 that rerouting getting heavy trucks away from the centre of the city would have a huge impact on the quality of local roads.
“One heavy ore truck is the equivalent of 1,000 passenger vehicles” in terms of damage done to the pavement, Shelsted said.
Breaking it down into smaller phases, he added, will mean a larger cost when the entire project is finished, he said.
“But it may increase the likelihood of being successful in getting approval of a funding application,” he said. “And then we could start realizing the benefits of the Maley Drive extension sooner.”
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume will be meeting with Michael Gravelle, minister of natural resources, to discuss the huge headaches bears have cause police in Greater Sudbury.
The MNR used to handle nuisance bear calls, which have spiked since the province cancelled the spring bear hunt several years ago. This year, the province downloaded responsibility for bear calls to municipalities, meaning local police forces have had to find time to deal with bears, even though they have had no training in how to handle such complaints.
Backed by a resolution from city council, Berthiaume requested the meeting last month. The meeting is scheduled for the morning of Aug. 20 at AMO, he said.
AMO runs Aug. 19-22 at the Ottawa Convention Centre. In addition to government MPs, opposition leaders Tim Hudak (PC) and Andrea Horvath (NDP) will also address the gathering. There will be 75 speakers in all.