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Rolling the dice on load corridor

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Troy Shantz

Local officials are moving forward on an oversize load corridor, despite having only half the money needed in hand.

Sarnia is taking the lead with a $4.7 million contribution, which will help local fabricating shops more easily move their custom built modules, known as the building blocks of energy complexes worldwide.

City council approved the money last week.

Lambton County has ponied up $1.2 million, St. Clair Township $75,000 and the Sarnia-Lambton Industrial Alliance $10,000.

That’s far short of the estimated $12 million it will take to complete a corridor linking the 11 fabricators with Sarnia Harbour, from which products are shipped to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Alberta and international markets beyond.

The completed corridor would improve market access for 11 local fabricating businesses.
Tyler Viscount graphic

“We’re still hopeful there would be senior government contributions to the project, but we’ll also be investigating other sources that could be available,” said Sarnia CAO Marg Misek-Evans.

“That’s partly what the next few stages of the project are going to involve.”

The first step is to hire a project manager with engineering and management experience to co-ordinate planning, design and implementation. That search will begin shortly.

A local request for federal support from a National Trade Corridor Fund was rejected earlier this year, leaving the project in limbo. But the need for a road corridor is pressing, Misek-Evans said.

Some 140 oversize units are already under contract to be built or delivered to industries, which is a rate of one a day for five months.

In total, about 450 oversize units will be required over the next four to five years, she said.

“That’s a lot of traffic.”

Major modifications are needed to infrastructure along the route: utility poles replaced and traffic signals and streetlights upgraded. Where possible, swing-arms could be installed on streetlights, making it easy to move them when a load comes through.

About $5.1 million of the total is earmarked for a “mini-dock” at the end of Exmouth Street, adding capacity for cranes and “roll-on and roll-off” loading at Sarnia Harbour.

Oversized loads that pass through Sarnia currently cost as much as $150,000 and require permits and arrangements with local and provincial governments.

According to an earlier study, a heavy load corridor built over the next four years would create 2,600 jobs, generate $263 million in gross domestic product, and add $21 million in government revenue.

Next steps will be determined once a contractor is retained and local industry has a chance to weigh in at public consultations later this month, Misek-Evans said.

She added it’s too soon to talk about a contingency plan should the rest of the money not be found.

“We haven’t quite got there yet … that will be one of the things that we work through, and provide to council various options that exist.”

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