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Old Posted Jul 5, 2006, 9:33 PM
upinottawa upinottawa is offline
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Commuter rail line studied: Lakeshore seeks talks on regional train service to cut car traffic

Sonja Puzic, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, July 05, 2006

LAKESHORE - Town council has approved a small feasibility study for an expanded railway commuter line to Windsor, but will have to wait for the results of a large-scale Transport Canada study of the region's existing railways before any blueprints are drawn.

Lakeshore Mayor Bob Croft said Monday he hopes talks of a regional commuter train service will finally materialize after months of debate.

"It might be a dream, but everything starts out as a dream," he said. "If we can eliminate 10 per cent of our traffic with the rail system, that would be great and environmentally friendly."

Croft said the feasibility study, approved about a month ago and headed by Lakeshore's manager of strategic services, James Snyder, will look into using the CN track that follows the Lake St.Clair shoreline. Via Rail hasn't picked up passengers in Belle River or Tecumseh for more than three decades on that track.

Another option is the freight-only Essex Terminal Railway with a connection from Windsor to Amherstburg, but its track beds would have to be upgraded for high-speed commuter service.

Croft said he's sent letters to the mayors of Tecumseh and Windsor asking for their input and received a positive reaction from Windsor Coun. Fulvio Valentinis.

"He thought it was a great idea," Croft said.

But Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said no decisions will be made until Transport Canada releases its report on the usability of the region's rail lines sometime in October.

More rail lines per capita

"We've identified that we have more rails per capita than any other region in Ontario," Francis said Tuesday. "Based on that we've initiated a community-based strategic study with Transport Canada (to look at) strategic railway corridors as they are abandoned or consolidated."

Francis said although the railway studies are "a great initiative," they are only part of a bigger need for better co-operation between the city and county.

He said Lakeshore's refusal to join the efforts to establish a regional water system is an example of a "pick-and-choose" approach to collaboration.

"Regionalism can't be approached a la carte. It can't be something that applies to one issue one day and doesn't apply to another issue another day," Francis said. "We're anxious to sit down and have a discussion about what our regional priorities are. We have to put progress ahead of politics."

Valentinis agreed.

"This is all part of long-term planning for our region and I welcome the opportunity because it's not just about the railway," he said. "It's about developing a model of regional co-operation. That's significant."

Croft said Lakeshore's 2001 economic development report showed that 6,800 Lakeshore residents work in Windsor and commute on a daily basis. About 2,100 Windsor residents work in Lakeshore.

"The railway would encourage people from Windsor to come out to Belle River and explore the region," Croft said. "There's lots to see and do here.

"Maybe we could end up with something fantastic."

© The Windsor Star 2006


This is the second time in the last couple of months where the Windsor Star has mentioned that Lakeshore is interested in exploring commuter rail. Windsor-Essex certainly has an abundance of tracks and the tracks are reasonably placed to create a commuter rail system. However, as the article points out Mayor Francis has been prodding Transport Canada to consolidate Windsor's rail lines, with the idea that the current VIA line be abandoned and turned into parkland/trails.

Clearly, the VIA line would be the best line for commuter rail as it runs through the heart of Belle River, Tecumseh, etc. The CP line to the south is far removed from those towns, especially Tecumseh. A commuter line could run on the VIA track from Belle River to Jefferson, take the southbound track along Jefferson past the Ford Essex Plant to where that line connects with the CP line. This would allow for the majority of the Windsor portion of the VIA line to be abandoned and allow for access to the eastern burbs.

Number of riders will be the main issue next to cost.

It would be great to have a commuter line from Amherstburg to Belle River. However, I suspect that Ontario and Canada would not choose Windsor as the pilot for such a project.
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