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Roadwork to begin 2004.

Even with government commitment of over $300 million in highway improvements, the transportation industry is cautiously optimistic, but point out there is room for a lot more to be done to improve Ontario's roads.

An announcement was made in November 2003 that the federal and provincial governments would be partnering in funding $336 million for 10 highway improvement projects in Ontario, including five four-laning projects near Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, Parry Sound, Sudbury and the District of Muskoka. Also announced was a new Highway 400/69 interchange at Muskoka roads 32 and 38 in Muskoka.

The agreement is part of the $600-million Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program (SHIP) announced in April 2001.

Ontario Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols says the projects under consideration have already received provincial approvals and are now awaiting federal environmental assessment.

"We'll be ready to start construction once we get the federal approvals," he says. "There is a good chance some of the work would start this year."

Rosane Parent, owner of R & P Transportation, located just outside of Kapuskasing, looks at government announcements such as this one with a skeptical eye.

"We're pretty used to hearing announcements of road improvements further to the south, but it's here in the North that we need more improvements to the highways," says Parent. "I mean, Ontario is one of the few provinces in Canada that does not have double lanes on its highways. You can leave North Bay and have only single lanes right up to the Manitoba border. And yet, in the village I live in, I can count 100 trucks an hour passing by on the highway."

The poor state of Ontario's highways is having a detrimental effect on the company's bottom line, says Parent. Lost time as a result of loaded trucks having to drive through some areas at considerably slower speeds and increases in maintenance costs are adding burdens to the trucking industry, says Parent. On a budget of $2 million, it can cost her about $150,000.

Rolf Vanderzwaag, manager of maintenance and technical issues for the Ontario Trucking Association, says while infrastructure improvements may not benefit transportation companies significantly, there is a "global" benefit from any effort to improve roads.

"Anything that improves the broader infrastructure is going to improve our ability to compete (with the United States) and that is the broader view that we take with road improvement," he says. "Our roads in Ontario and Canada need improvement. It's for everybody's benefit."

Visit www.northernontariobusiness.com

By ANDREW WAREING

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2004 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Transportation
Author:Wareing, Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:424
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