|January 27, 2003|
The key recommendation in the Joint Management Committee (JMC) report, to build a truck freeway through neighborhoods in Windsor, while shutting down a train route, will ensure a greater volume of truck traffic flowing into the City. The JMC report briefly mentioned noise and air pollution as an issue to consider within the section on principles. However, the JMC recommendations indicate that air pollution was not considered seriously. There is no supporting documentation or analysis which is particularly egregious given the well-known environmental problems in this part of the country.
The key recommendation of the report clearly clashes with what we know about air quality in this region, the sources of pollution and their health implications as well as municipal, provincial and federal government statements about the importance of sustainable transportation.
One generous conclusion that comes to mind from the JMC recommendation is that the JMC was not aware of the current status of air quality in Windsor. Nor did the JMC report indicate the implications of increasing a significant emission source, diesel fuelled motor vehicles, for the environment and human health in Windsor and Essex County.
The Windsor Air Quality Study, published in 1994, was the first urban air quality study in Ontario to deal with multiple pollutant and multiple source air toxic issues. Emission data were collected in the early 90s. The data showed that NOx and PM, major components of smog, were generated in large amounts by gasoline and diesel-fuelled motor vehicles.
The Study included a health effects assessment associated with the exposure of residents to toxic substances including those substances emitted by diesel-fuelled motor vehicles. The Study recommended a reduction of the exposure of Windsor residents to these substances.
Since this study was published there has been more research published about the environmental impacts of diesel motor vehicles.
Diesel pollution is particularly dangerous because it contains over 40 substances that are considered toxic by various health and environmental regulatory agencies. There are over 30 health studies that have linked diesel exhaust to cancer. Recently the USEPA published a 600+ page health assessment of diesel exhaust that concluded it was a likely cause of cancer.
There are additional studies linking traffic related pollution with respiratory diseases and mortality.
We have been witness to a significant increase in the volume of road based freight traffic over the years. In the five years following the passage of NAFTA there was a cumulative 61% increase in cross-border truck crossings of the Ambassador Bridge and a 20% increase through the tunnel.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has projected continued increases in the volume of truck traffic into this border area well into the 2020's. Given the numbers just mentioned their projections may be conservative.
The Windsor Area Long Range Transportation Study warned that its recommendations would be undermined by the continual increase in the volume of truck traffic.
In addition to undermining municipal planning by providing simplistic logistical support to increase the volume of truck traffic in this area, the JMC report also undermines the statements of the federal government on the importance of environmental improvements through sustainable transportation.
Increasing volumes of truck traffic may also threaten the stated goals of a number of other public policies: the ozone annex of the U.S-Canada Air Quality Agreement; the transportation commitments within the Kyoto Protocol, and; the benefits of the Sulphur in Diesel Regulations and the On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations.
To improve environmental quality, a greater emphasis on demand side management of freight transportation should be a key component of sustainable transportation policies throughout Canada. Reducing the volume of on-road freight transport and reducing the truck's dominance of freight transportation are important components of any sustainable transportation strategy.
For example, the cross border transportation of waste (municipal, industrial, hazardous, etc.) has to be eliminated. Senior level governments could mandate better product and packaging stewardship initiatives that would reduce the volume of on-road freight transport.
Any private or public infrastructure proposal should clearly address the core environmental problems in Windsor and southwestern Ontario. We are seeking environmental improvements not greater environmental burdens.
Research and Policy Coordinator,
Citizens Environment Alliance