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Federal policy holding up four-laning: province.

Federal policy holding up four-laning: province

The federal government is dragging its feet on a national transportation policy which would provide direction for the four-laning of the TransCanada Highway, says the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce (NOACC).

The provincial government's response to the group's call for four-laning the highway was the main item on the NOACC'S agenda at its annual spring meeting, held in Marathon.

"The government of Ontario is looking at transportation policy, and the federal government is foot dragging on it," said NOACC president Hugh Syrja of Dryden. "We are writing to the federal government, endorsing the province's position and calling for the policy."

Syrja said the spring meeting was dedicated to a review of the provincial government's responses to resolutions passed last fall by the chamber. While a number of resolutions and responses were reviewed by the meeting's 50 delegates, Syrja said the condition of the TransCanada in the northwestern portion of the province drew the most attention.

Ken Boshcoff, past president of the Ontario Good Roads Association, told the group it should be pressuring the province to provide funding for a series of smaller projects rather than for a major project such as four-laning from the Manitoba border to the French River. Referring to the enormous price tag carried by the large-scale project, Boshcoff said there was a better chance of gaining approval for the construction of passing lanes for the highway.

Despite the advice, Syrja said the organization is still pushing for four lanes.

"We appreciate Mr. Boshcoff's comments and we will study them carefully," he said. "However, we've seen some signs of movement from the province on the issue with the announcement of the four-laning from Thunder Bay to Nipigon."

The provincial government has announced the commitment of $2 billion in capital improvements for roads over the next five years, including widening the 100-kilometre stretch of highway between the two communities.

"We'd like to think that we played a part in that decision and if we persist we'll get them to four-lane other areas as well," he added.

Syrja said there are plans to set up a permanent NOACC office in Thunder Bay.

Currently, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce provides both staff and facilities for NOACC.

"It will be a gradual process," said Syrja. "We'll hire a staff member and rent space from the Thunder Bay chamber."

Even though the motion was passed by the executive members of NOACC, the proposal still needs to be ratified by the individual chambers. Syrja said he expects the process to be completed by the end of the month.

If approved, the move will cost approximately $60,000. The funding for the operation of the office would be provided by a per-capita levy charged to all member chambers.

"We're at a crossroads right now," Syrja said, pointing to the growth of NOACC and the Thunder Bay chamber as the chief reasons for the establishment of a permanent office.

NOACC's fall general meeting is slated for Sept. 28 to 30 in Dryden.
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Title Annotation:Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce wants a four-lane TransCanada Highway
Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
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