Windsor chamber of commerce urges Canadian government to reconsider high-speed rail

From The Windsor Star:

The local chamber of commerce is urging the federal government to reconsider  its decision to refuse funding for a high-speed rail link between Windsor and  Quebec City.

Transport Minister Denis Lebel told The Star Tuesday that with a price tag of  between $18.9 billion and $21.3 billion, the proposal is “not a priority for our  government.” Lebel’s comments came on the heels of a report released Tuesday  that suggested a highspeed link between Windsor and Toronto would not be  financially viable.

Bill Anderson, chairman of the chamber’s transportation committee, said  Wednesday that dismissing high-speed rail for the Windsor-Quebec corridor is  “short-sighted.”

He said the report does not take into account the benefits of connecting Via  Rail with Amtrak passenger service in the U.S., providing a highspeed rail link  “all the way to Chicago.

“The U.S. government has already committed significant dollars to track  improvements from Detroit to Chicago and it would seem short-sighted not to take  advantage of that since it would change the entire picture.”

Anderson, director of the Cross Border Transportation Centre at the  University of Windsor, also said the study does not take into account the entire  range of options, which could include higher-speed rail rather than a much more  expensive high-speed version.

“There could still be significant improvements to the rail options even  without the high-speed version,” said Anderson. “It would seem to be a shame to  say we’re not going to do anything at all rather than look at the broad range of  options.”

While the study acknowledges that a MontrealOttawaToronto link has the  potential to be lucrative, it concluded that adding the eastern and western  portions would be too expensive.

“We hope the book isn’t closed on this issue because there do seem to be some  other options,” said Don Marsh, interim president of the chamber.

“Higher speed is doable at a less expensive cost and from our perspective, it  deserves to be debated fully,” said Marsh. “We’re planning to open up some  dialogue between chambers along the route to see what other options exist.

“In our view, the report does not look at the entire picture.”

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