Ground officially broken for $1.4-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway

New highway should be open for motorists in 2014

By Ron Giofu / The Amherstburg Echo

LASALLE — Ground has been officially broken for one of the most ambitious road projects in the province’s history.

Dignitaries from the provincial government joined their municipal counterparts from Essex County and Windsor in the ceremonial first dig of the new $1.4-billion highway last Thursday at the southwest corner of Highway 3 and Howard Ave. The design of the new parkway consists of a new six-lane below-grade freeway, which is essentially an extension of Highway 401, a four-lane service road network acting as an extension of Highway 3 and naturalized green space to distance adjacent residents from border-bound traffic.

The Windsor-Essex Parkway will run for 11 kilometres and run adjacent to municipalities that include Windsor, Tecumseh and LaSalle. Planned as part of the parkway is 11 tunnels covering 1.8 kilometres of highway, extensive landscaping throughout the corridor, the use of noise reduction techniques and special measures to protect wildlife.

Minister of Economic Development and Trade and Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello said it was a celebration of “a huge milestone” and said it was a project the community needs.

“It takes so much work to get to this point,” said Pupatello.

Quality infrastructure is needed between Canada and the United States, she said, noting that “people come to Ontario because they can go anywhere in North America so easily.”

Pupatello said it is a project “several years in the making and we look forward to the thousands of jobs this project will continue to create, the ease of traffic that will result, not to mention the envy this investment will inspire amongst communities all over the country.”

Warden Tom Bain called the day “almost indescribable” and said it took tremendous teamwork from all levels of government and the private sector to get the project to the groundbreaking point.

“I think it’s a win-win-win for all of us in Windsor-Essex County,” said Bain. “We’re going to have a lot of jobs for our people here. It’s just tremendous and it’s all been done by great teamwork.”

Chatham-Kent-Essex MP Dave Van Kesteren called the parkway “one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the 401” and noted there will roughly 12,000 jobs the parkway is expected to support. He said it will help keep local and international traffic separate adding that any short term inconveniences that occurs during the construction will be outweighed by the long-term benefits the parkway presents.

“Keeping road and rail traffic moving safely and efficiently to the local border crossings is important for Canada’s economy. The new Windsor-Essex Parkway will spur local job growth, now and into the future, and will support international trade and therefore the continued growth of the economies of Windsor-Essex County, Ontario and Canada,” said Van Kesteren.

“I look at it as a 50-year completion of the 401,” said Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. “Now, we are completing the 401.”

McNamara indicated it’s been an eight-year wait since discussions on the project began and said it will bring “more opportunity for our region.” A lot of work has been put into what is a “legacy” project that people will look back on positively.

“This is going to be a real kick in the pants for the economy of our region,” said McNamara.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya said there is “no question” traffic flow and regional mobility will improve thanks to the parkway, adding that the parkway will blend in with LaSalle’s new Laurier Parkway as well.. Natural trails and pedestrian walkways will also improve, he noted.

The region is “on the road to recovery,” he added, with job creation numbers “encouraging if not staggering.”

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis credited residents for their part in the project. Francis said members of the region came together and helped create the solution. Francis said it is a “better solution to get trucks off of our streets” and also recognized the upper levels of government as well.

“This took strong political leadership,” said Francis, noting the federal and provincial governments under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty were respectively behind it.

Francis noted the work of Pupatello and finance minister and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Dwight Duncan as well as the late Bruce Crozier, the latter being the MPP for Essex.

Duncan also acknowledged Essex MP Jeff Watson, who was out of the country on business and not able to be at the announcement. Duncan said Watson was an “invaluable partner” in the process.

Duncan also noted he worked with several premiers, prime ministers and Michigan governors during the course of the project and said the groundbreaking was “bringing to life of an enormous piece of road.

“We are building a connection to our future.”

There will obstacles and “those who are still going to slow us down” but Duncan vowed “this is going ahead” and “no one is going to stop us.” The parkway is about the future prosperity of the community for generations to come, he indicated, vowing “the new border crossing will go ahead” although no current agreement is in place for a new crossing to the United States.

“This is not the road to nowhere,” said Duncan. “This is a road to our future.”

Approximately 900 properties were acquired by the province to prepare for the parkway’s construction. The Windsor-Essex Parkway is scheduled to open to traffic in the fall of 2014 while final completion is scheduled for summer 2015.