Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gridlock a grind on Toronto's economy: report

Toronto’s Board of Trade says gridlock is now the greatest threat to economic prosperity in the region and wants provincial parties to address the issue in the upcoming election campaign.
“Clearly, we’re losing the battle against gridlock,” said Toronto Board of Trade president and CEO Carol Wilding. “And it’s time for our provincial parties to step up.”
A board of tradereport says infrastructure underfunding is creating a gridlock problem that is costing the region $6 billion annually, and rising.
Toronto has a 25-year regional infrastructure transportation plan called The Big Move, but the board of trade said only $10 million in funding has been committed to a project with an estimated cost of $50 million.
Meanwhile, traffic on Toronto highways is among the worst in North America.
“The longer we wait to fund, finance and build our needed infrastructure, the bigger the challenge will become,” reads the board of trade report. “And the more we change projects partway through completion, the less certain and more expensive these plans become.”
Wilding said Toronto-area politicians need to have a frank conversation with voters about the costs of solving the region’s traffic woes. She wants the debate to move beyond a simplistic discussion about road tolls.
“Respect for taxpayers also means being straight with taxpayers,” she said. "It’s a discussion our members, and the broader public, are ready for, but it requires political leadership to advance."
York Region Chair Bill Fisch said there’s no magic solution to the region's traffic problems.
“There’s no one tool that does the job because it doesn’t collect enough," he told CBC News. "You’d probably need six to 12 tools.”
The NDP has said it will give more funding to the Toronto Transit Commission and freeze fares. The Progressive Conservatives are ruling out road tolls, saying they want to provide tax relief, not add costs.

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