In February of this year, I started the Murray Canal District Organization (MCDO) as an advocacy group for better quality of life in the Murray Canal area. I started it because I am very concerned about the poor state of the Murray Canal and because I think we have a great opportunity to have it be a centrepiece, enhancing quality of life at the geographical hub of our three municipalities. Lots of people share this feeling. We now have over 600 people registered on the MCDO website (www.murraycanaldistrict.ca) or following the two twitter accounts I set up to talk about this. We have an executive in place and have been successful raising the profile of the area and getting some roadways issues in the area addressed.
I am writing to ask you to add your voice to our concerns about the project to replace the Brighton Murray Canal Bridge with a single lane bridge.
I’m asking you to attach your name to an online petition started by Diane Lyndon, a resident south of the Canal. The petition asks for procurement of the single lane bridge to be halted to allow the federal government to explore all options. This should be a brief delay so we can get the information we’ve asked for repeatedly and discuss all options to address the problem. Here’s the link: http://chn.ge/TXpXSD
I’d also appreciate if you’d forward this web page attached to an email with your remarks to MP Norlock and the other individuals on the above cc list. As you will read below, I think our organization now desperately needs your voice to get our elected officials to at least give our community a chance to address this. Myself and other MCDO members have made these views known in all available public forums. Mr. Norlock has made it clear he is doing what he can, but as you will read below, he feels we are a small group, local to the bridge. We are not being successful in getting the Federal Government or Parks Canada to provide meaningful responses
Thanks for your attention and please read on to learn more and lend your support.
Several years ago, literally without any public consultation, the Federal Government planned and started a project to replace the Brighton Swing Bridge. The public heard nothing until this March. Then, a Federal funding announcement stated there was $4.6M about to be spent for a replacement Brighton Swing Bridge with construction to take place ‘sometime’ in the next two years. The announcement didn’t mention the bridge would only allow a single lane of traffic. The public waited until April 23rd to hear these details. At that time, MP Norlock informed the public the existing bridge is in danger of falling down and he let us know the existing money to replace the bridge could easily disappear if the project was delayed. No schedule for construction was shared at that time.
Parks Canada is claiming our current bridge is in danger of falling into the canal. Parks Canada have not backed up these claims with any analysis or engineering information. If the bridge did not swing it is highly probable it could be bolstered and braced to be safe to use for a number of years while we consider options to repair or replace it. Instead, it looks like Parks Canada is going ahead to put in a swing bridge adequate to their needs, as quickly as they can, without allowing us time to figure out how to make it adequate for ours.
MCDO has repeatedly asked MP Norlock and Parks Canada for a disclosure of the analysis and engineering behind the load limit on the current bridge and the decision to replace it with an inadequate single lane bridge. We have asked the Federal Government to suspend, even briefly, the replacement project to allow time for a dialog on all possible options to get the new bridge we need. Mr. Norlock and also the Minister responsible for Parks Canada have ignored repeated formal requests from the three municipalities (Brighton, Qunite West and Prince Edward County) and the MCDO to provide a written response to our requests, and to assist in getting the information disclosure we need.
Instead Mr. Norlock has gone on the radio to announce the project is not suspended, even briefly and that now, the schedule has been firmed up with a procurement set to begin in June and construction to begin this fall. On the radio, MP Norlock has dismissed our organization as being a small group of people local to the bridge. He has denigrated our intentions as politically motivated and partisan. He has stated he is ‘beating the bushes’ to find more federal money but at the same time he minimized the relevance of our concerns to people elsewhere in his riding or beyond.
We understand Mr. Norlock feels he is facing an uphill climb to find additional Federal funding and that he is concerned the existing funding could go away or costs could escalate with any delay. We get that our Municipal Governments feel it is not their responsibility to fund the replacement of a Federally owned bridge. What we do not get or appreciate is the ignoring of our reasonable requests for: disclosure of the quantified information and reasons for these actions and decisions; a brief suspension of the project to discuss all options to improve it, and most fundamentally, the ignoring of opportunities for full public awareness and participation in this process.
A single lane bridge is clearly inadequate for current traffic, let alone what will come over the next 50-100 years. This is alarming for local residents and businesses for many, many, painfully obvious reasons. MCDO, along with the Municipalities has repeatedly and respectfully asked for a full disclosure of the reasons leading to these back-room decisions. Given Mr. Norlock’s radio disclosures of previously unannounced, much more rapid timelines for this project, we have been forced to file Federal Access to Information Requests for the information. These are not likely to be satisfied in time to allow any discussion before procurement and construction start.
We do not accept that our concerns, our requests and the requests of the municipalities for a brief suspension of the project, and most specifically that our entirely respectful requests for a full disclosure of the information leading to these decisions are not being addressed in the proper forums, with proper formality, timeliness and completeness. Instead we are learning ’new information’ on the radio that, if anything, the project is being accelerated. Given this apparent acceleration we are more adamant in making these demands on behalf of the public.
I have attached sound clips of Mr. Norlock’s comments on local radio. A link to a recording of his full remarks on CJBQ is also attached. The relevant remarks are towards the end of the lengthy recording.
PS: As the author of this email I’d like you to know I own a Country Inn on the south side of the Murray Canal in Brighton. It is entirely unclear to me what would better benefit my business. Would the quieter, pastoral area that would certainly result from a single lane bridge be better? Or would a more accessible location be better. I’m not sure. But I am certain a single lane bridge will be bad for Brighton, it will greatly hamper emergency services and it will encourage all current PEC-bound traffic to bypass Brighton and stay on the 401 until the Wooler Road. It is clearly also the wrong choice for the broader area’s economic development. It’s literally a bottleneck to economic development in the area.