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Windsor mayor hopes province will upload E.C. Row Expressway after Toronto deal

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Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens expressed hope Monday night that the city will be able to upload E.C. Row Expressway to the province after the City of Toronto made a deal with the Ford government to upload two expensive area highways earlier in the day.

Dilkens made the comments after Monday’s council meeting, indicating he’s been having discussions with “the right people” from the provincial government for a few years to move the Windsor highway back into provincial control.

“We're asking the province of course to upload the expressway in its entirety. If not, we certainly need support to make sure that we can complete that $80-million project,” said Dilkens of the expected cost to upgrade the intersection at Banwell Road and E.C. Row, near the future site of the NextStar Energy battery plant.

This, on the heels of a deal that will see the province take responsibility for the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway from Toronto, potentially saving that city billions of dollars.

The move is meant to address Toronto’s financial woes. In total, the agreement will provide the city with up to $1.2 billion in financial relief over three years. The city is facing a $1.5-billion shortfall in its 2024 budget alone.

The Windsor expressway was built by the province in the 1970s but downloaded to the City of Windsor in the 90s and the city has been tasked with maintenance, repairs and road upgrades ever since.

Dilkens said uploading the highway would mean the city could reallocate $10 million annually from its capital budget and put it into local roads.

“That would have a dramatic impact on with residents in the community with respect to local road renewal. And so being able to upload this expressway I think is really really important,” Dilkens said.

He added, the expressway is by definition a regional roadway, with 30 per cent of its users from other municipalities, noting city taxpayers foot the bill for all maintenance and upgrades.

“It is patently unfair the way that it’s set up today. Change needs to happen,” said Dilkens. “Because of our growth we see the pressure that's building on E.C. Row Expressway.”

“I know I'm not the only mayor in Ontario looking at a downloaded roadway and saying it’s time to upload it. The province is certainly aware of our interest in doing this. We've had lots of conversations over the years with all the right people.”

“It's a function of the political will to make it happen and we certainly want to see that traction in Windsor like they've seen in Toronto." 

In an emailed statement to CTV News, a Ministry of Transport spokesperson said that deal announced Monday will offer supports that “Toronto’s unique financial challenges.”

“That being said, Ontario continues to make historic investments to repair and build new roads and highways in Southern Ontario, including widening Highway 3 in Windsor,” the statement said. “We will continue to work with our municipal partners to help ensure the sustainability of municipal infrastructure across Ontario." 

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