Volume 93, Issue 75

Friday, February 11, 2000


Braun walks away with presidential gold

Close but no USC cigar

New blob discovered in Thames

Toll systems looked at to improve 401 safety

Seven days from heaven on earth



Caught on campus

Toll systems looked at to improve 401 safety

By Joel Brown
Gazette Staff

New toll highways in Ontario may be the answer to improving the state of existing roads.

According to Christian Bode, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, Minister Ernie Eves told the Ontario Road Builders Association on Wednesday that pay-as-you-drive highways are being reviewed as part of a plan to link the government to the private sector, similar to the 407.

Eves said profits from toll roads would significantly add to the province's efforts to make Ontario's current highways safe.

Bob Nicholls, media liaison officer for the Ministry of Transportation, confirmed his department is considering various options and privatized highways are one of them.

London mayor Dianne Haskett said she believed the province's focus should be on making sure existing roads are safe. She said the province has not delivered on their plan to improve safety along the 401, as they promised to do so in a Five-Point plan announced last September.

"Implementation has been very slow," Haskett said. "For instance, their promise to add police officers to the stretch between London and Windsor has not been evident.

"My preference is for easily accessible highways and not toll roads. The 401 is a key part of our area," she said.

Pat Hoy, Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament for Chatham-Kent-Essex, was outraged to hear the news about the possibility of toll highways, according to his executive assistant, Caryl McCabe.

"A toll road alternative to the 401 strip from London to Windsor is a poor choice. It forces motorists to choose between endangering their lives or paying for a stretch of highway for which the government has failed to meet their commitment. The government should be spending their money on four-laning highways and making improvements," she said.

Highway safety has been a major concern for Southwest Ontario since last year, in light of the numerous car wrecks on the 401 stretch between London and Windsor, Haskett said.

Nicholls added the government has taken sufficient steps to make this stretch safer for drivers. "In the Chatham-Kent area we are putting up out-shoulders and rubble strips along with increasing the number signs."

Bode said the 407, an existing toll-road, generated $1.3 billion for the province last year, with a share of those going to road maintenance and improvement.

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