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Proposed highway would cut across the northeast.

Proposed highway would cut across the northeast

While many northeastern Ontarians are concerned with just four-laning the highways to Toronto, Jim Rudack has another vision which he describes as his favorite project.

The president of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation would like to see a four-lane highway built across Northern Ontario from Sault Ste. Marie to Cornwall. It would pass near Sudbury, North Bay and Ottawa on the way.

"You wouldn't use the existing highway system at all," Rudack said.

Instead, the proposed highway would be a controlled-access toll road.

In late February Rudack wrote to Premier Bob Rae suggesting that such a project be considered.

Rudack said it could take 10 years to build at a cost of $100 million per year.

If a tunnel can be dug under the English Channel, why can't there be "one lousy four-lane highway across Northern Ontario?" he asks.

It would not cost as much and, from an engineering and business standpoint, it would be an easy thing to do, he claimed.

Rudack said the highway would create a lot of economic activity in the north for engineers, craftsmen, steel and cement companies and wood producers.

"Can you just imagine how much spin-off will come out of this project?" he asked.

Rudack said the new highway would also attract traffic from across the international bridge as American truckers from the Midwest and West seek a quicker route to the northeastern states.

Traffic from the western U.S. headed to the northeast presently goes south of the Great Lakes.

With a four-lane highway across Northern Ontario, businesses in Chicago or Duluth, for instance, could use it to get to Boston or New York.

Rudack noted that there currently are 18-hour lineups for trucks crossing the border at Detroit, and he knows of delays of up to 30 hours.

If that traffic was redirected across Northern Ontario, it would create economic activity at truck stops, restaurants, gas stations and hotels, he predicted.

To get such a project underway Rudack suggested that tax-free bonds and debentures could be used, as they are similarly used for large projects in the United States.

"The Americans are great at that," he said.

In fact, Rudack noted that the Pennsylvania Turnpike was built at the height of the Great Depression using the tax-free bond system.

Tax-free bonds would have the same advantages for investors as RRSPs, he explained.

Rudack said the province could form the company to undertake the project, and have control and audit powers.

However, he said that when he brings the idea up with politicians, their only reaction is that there have never been tax-free bonds in Canada.

"There's just got to be a political will to do it," he said, adding that a national highway act would be a start.

The attraction to motorists would be convenience, he explained, noting that a toll highway across Oklahoma cuts six hours from the drive across the state.

He also said it would be safer.

Rudack does not claim to have originated the idea, noting that it started with an economic development official in Michigan, who would like to see a four-lane highway built across the upper peninsula.
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Title Annotation:four-lane highway to be built across Northern Ontario from Sault Ste. Marie to Cornwall
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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