The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) have released Moving Forward: A Strategic Approach to Ontario’s Transportation Needs, a policy report that calls on the Ontario Government to develop a Long-Term Transportation Plan. To address the current and future transportation needs of the province, the report highlights three areas of opportunity that will help improve the mobility of Ontarians.

In a recent OCC survey, 60 percent of Ontario businesses rated existing transportation infrastructure as fair or poor. With much of the existing infrastructure in Ontario built in the 1950s and 1960s and nearing the end of its useful life, the OCC recognizes that the costs of investment are high, and Ontario is far behind when it comes to building new and maintaining old infrastructure.

“Transportation is the backbone of our economy, affecting the movement of people and goods and the everyday lives of Ontarians and businesses,” said Shirley de Silva, President and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. “Yet, limited transit connectivity, aging assets, unique regional needs, and a historic under-investment in infrastructure have led to a significant gap between the actual and needed infrastructure in Ontario. This has led to real challenges faced by Ontario residents and businesses every single day.”

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the OCC developed 13 tangible and pragmatic transportation recommendations for a stronger Ontario within three key areas of opportunity. This approach will help to address the current and future transportation needs of the province with a focus on:

  1. Transit planning governance;
  2. Moving people and goods by rail; and
  3. Autonomous vehicles.

The report points to VIA Rail’s High-Frequency Rail proposal as a near-term, affordable solution to moving people, reducing congestion on Highway 401, lowering emissions and freeing up the movement of freight. For years, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and RAIL Advocacy Sarnia-Lambton have been advocating for High-Frequency Rail.

Mabel Higgins and Jim Houston, co-chairs of Rail Advocacy in Lambton (RAIL), noted with interest the report’s recommendations for Southern Ontario. “The movement of people is imperative in raising our social and economic outlook,” said Higgins. “Swift implementation of this report’s recommendations could nudge action as early as the new year. Celebrating VIAs 40th Anniversary in Sarnia this summer was a reminder of the possibilities.”

The Chamber’s Shirley de Silva pointed to the importance of transportation infrastructure to the business community. “Fully half of Ontario businesses view this issue as being critical to their competitiveness,” she said. “Moving forward, the province needs a plan that is strategic, provides value for public dollars, optimizes existing assets, leverages the private sector and technology, and takes into account the unique needs of our province.”

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the OCC have been active on the transportation file for years, looking at transit and transportation governance, the use of rail for the movement of both people and goods, and the province’s autonomous vehicle readiness. Their recent policy report on transportation makes the case for a Long-Range Transportation Plan that can deliver a strategy for better managing the province’s interconnected transportation assets and serving the needs of both Ontario businesses and residents.

The full report from the OCC can be seen HERE.