Masse warns of P3 bridge

PUBLICATION: The Windsor Star
BYLINE: Dave Battagello

Masse warns of P3 bridge

Local MP Brian Masse says he fears higher tolls to cross the new Windsor-Detroit bridge if a private partner is involved.

Last week, he challenged the federal transport minister on whether the feds have done due diligence to determine if a private sector partner is the right model to use in the construction of a new crossing.

Minister Lawrence Cannon for over a year has touted the next Windsor crossing as an ideal opportunity for a public-private partnership, referred to as a P3.

But Masse (NDP -- Windsor West) fears the local commuters, travellers and truckers who will rely on the new crossing will be stuck with higher tolls if a private profit-driven company is introduced as a partner to the project, expected to be completed by 2013.

He has pointed to Highway 407 -- the Toronto ring road owned by Australia's Macquarie Bank -- where private ownership has led to rising tolls for users. The company, the world's largest operator of private toll roads, also has an ownership stake in the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road.

"There has been analysis of hundreds of P3s around the world," Masse said Tuesday. "What they show is a Frankenstein-type pattern with all kinds of different problems have emerged with private ownership of public entities -- water systems, roads."

During questioning by Masse last Thursday at the standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities, Cannon backpedalled, saying a process will be launched early in the new year to determine whether a P3 is appropriate for Windsor.

"From the indications we have up to now, it's an interesting avenue to pursue," Cannon told the committee. "But if at the end of the day it's determined that it isn't in the public's interest or it's not something that is going to fly, I can assure you we are not going to go forward."