MCDO Letter to Our Three Mayors & Councillors


April 2, 2014

To: Mayor Mark Walas and Council, Municipality of Brighton
To: Mayor John Williams and Council, Municipality of Quinte West
To: Mayor Peter Mertens and Council, Municipality of Prince Edward County

Copies:
Darlene Upton, Executive Director Parks Canada Canals
Jewel Cunningham, Superintendent, Trent Severn Waterway
Rick Norlock, MP Northumberland Quinte West
Daryl Kramp, MP for Hasting Prince Edward
Rob Milligan, MPP for Northumberland Quinte West
Todd Smith, MPP for Hastings Prince Edward

Subject: The March 14, 2014 Federal Government/Parks Canada announcement of funding for the replacement of the West Murray Canal Swing Bridge

Dear Sirs,

We are communicating on behalf of the members of the recently founded, non-profit, Murray Canal District Organization (MCDO). The MCDO is taking its place in the community as an advocate for enhancing and preserving quality of life in the district surrounding the Murray Canal. The district consists of areas of the three municipalities in proximity to the Parks Canada Murray Canal property. Our registered members are concerned citizens, residents and business owners from within and beyond the Murray Canal District. We believe our efforts will be of significant benefit to the broader community.

On behalf of the Murray Canal District Organization (MCDO), we respectfully submit this request, as official correspondence, to each of you and the respective municipal governments you lead.

Our request concerns the recent announcement by the Federal Government of funding for a project to replace the West Murray Canal swing bridge. The brief public announcement states the Federal Government has provided $4.6 Million to fund the replacement of the west Murray Canal swing bridge. It indicates the expenditures will be incurred over a two-year period; the bridge will be constructed with provision of a pedestrian walkway; and the bridge will allow emergency services vehicles to cross the bridge. No other significant details are provided in the announcement. In the days following the announcement, MP Rick Norlock and various members of Quinte West and Brighton Municipal Councils have shared additional details, which apparently have not been otherwise publicly announced. Apparently the planned replacement bridge will be a single lane with traffic control lights. The Quinte West Councilors attending our March 30th meeting also indicated Parks Canada has offered Quinte West additional options whereby Quinte West could choose, on its own accord, to find additional funding to build a more substantial bridge and to take over the operation of the bridge.

Beyond what we have been able to learn in these informal discussions, local or federal government officials have not publicly and substantively shared details of these plans or these options. Nor has there been any public consultation as part of the process leading up to the creation of these plans. We are greatly concerned about the lack of public consultation and the lack of communication of the details of the replacement bridge plan.

The existing west end swing bridge is currently operating under load restrictions and is urgently in need of replacement or complete refurbishment to restore and extend its full capability as a critical traffic artery. The $4.6 Million in funding is most welcome and our organization appreciates the efforts of our elected officials, and the various government agencies involved at all levels, to secure these funds.

Our organization and over 300 additional individuals who have signed an informal petition over the last two weeks unanimously submit the replacement single lane bridge plan is inadequate to meet current, let alone future needs of the communities it will serve. A single lane bridge with significant additional traffic delays beyond current would have a devastating impact on the very significant levels of existing local cross-bridge commerce and trade. It would significantly erode residential and commercial property values. A single lane bridge would wreak havoc on our significant local farm operations that depend on the bridge for transit of large agricultural machinery. It would also severely impair the economic benefit of tourism on both sides of the canal. It would have further dramatic impacts on local businesses as longer bridge delays discourage use of the shorter ‘Brighton route’ into Prince Edward County from points west. A single lane bridge would likely accelerate the decline of the Trent Severn Waterway by putting marine traffic into greater direct conflict with automotive traffic and ultimately impairing marine TSW access from points west. We believe the improved bridge is a crucial piece of infrastructure, key to quality of life and prosperity for the three municipalities for the next 100 years. It is an equally crucial ‘front door’ element for a revitalized Trent-Severn Waterway to present a welcoming entrance to the Greater Toronto Area with a projected 11 million population within the next 30 years. We believe the importance of the decision on the improvement/replacement of the west Murray Canal swing bridge warrants public consultation and planning participation.

Our request is that each of you, along with your respective council, immediately pass a motion to:
1. Have your municipal council immediately request the appropriate Parks Canada and other Federal Government officials suspend the current process and plan for the replacement single lane west Murray Canal bridge in order to preserve the existing funding and investigate how to produce the required additional funding for a bridge meeting requirements to be identified through a public consultation process.
2. Have your municipal council confirm their support and willingness to contribute, along with other appropriate agencies and players, to the establishment of a public consultation process leading to the capture of public input; the sharing with the public of the existing research and analysis; and finally, a revised replacement bridge plan adequate for today and appropriately into the future.
3. Have your municipal council, within 30 days, document for the public, the actions your council will take to ensure the current single lane replacement bridge plan and process is suspended and the consultation process leading to a revised replacement bridge plan is initiated and taken to completion.

Our organization respectfully submits this request. We are standing by to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss further and address any questions or comments.

We look forward to building our place in the communities we serve by establishing a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with each of you.

Sincerely,

Dave Dingle, Co-Chair MCDO
Dave Ware, Co-Chair MCDO
Philip Spencer, Co-Chair MCDO

Attachment: Informal Petition collected over the last two weeks

Murray Canal District Organization
PO Box 903
Brighton ON K0K1H0