Amtrak service could revive Detroit and Windsor’s historic train station sites

WindsorOntarioNews.com January 10 2022

Any revision of a Chicago to Toronto passenger train service, via Windsor, would presumably make use of the defunct Michigan Central Terminal in Detroit, the hulking and formerly ruined building near the Ambassador Bridge now being restored by the Ford Motor Co. The office tower will be the “centerpiece” of Ford’s mobility innovation district and "mobility innovators" there are expected to develop, test, and launch “new solutions that solve urban transportation challenges,” accord to Ford’s real estate division. The campus includes new and revitalized buildings, a mobility testing platform and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space. And it presumably could include a redeveloped train station. The last Amtrak train to depart Michigan Central’s tracks, adjacent to the tower, was in 1988. According to Amtrak’s 2035 Vision document, released last Spring, renewing the Chicago-Toronto link would require extending the current Chicago-Detroit “Wolverine” train for a Toronto round trip “using a newly redeveloped Michigan Central Terminal.” Last week Amtrak and Canadian Pacific Railway backed the CPR’s acquisition of the Kansas City Southern RR, lauding CPR as an “excellent host” of Amtrak trains and its commitment to expand future Amtrak service. One of the new routes would be “passenger service through the Detroit River Tunnel between Michigan and Ontario to Windsor and Toronto (with connections to VIA Rail Canada).” But the 2035 Vision statement, an outline of Amtrak’s proposal for a vast expansion of North American services, also says the Toronto-Detroit-Chicago corridor currently has “two disconnected passenger rail routes” and that “infrastructure, station, and routing challenges will need to be overcome; along with potential partnership opportunities exist with VIA Rail Canada.” For one thing, the routes are very different. The CPR rail tunnel comes out on Windsor’s near west side between Crawford and Caron avenues. The Via Rail station, which hosts trains heading to Toronto and which was rebuilt just a decade ago, is more than four kilometres to the east. There is no train station along the CPR tracks. The former one (pictured), which dated to 1911, saw its last passenger train in 1979, according to the Ontario Railway Stations blog. An arsonist burned the station to the ground in 1996. All that remains is the station platform.

Widened road poses safety concerns

WindsorOntarioNews.com December 15 2021

The city’s widening of Cabana Road also brought higher motorist speeds, and that has put school children at risk. Now there are four car and bike lanes. The speed limit is 50 km/h. But in the area of Roseland Public School “since the reconstruction speeds have been identified as high” says a city report going to council this month. In Sept. 2016 the average speed was 55 km/h and in January 2019 – when the matter was first raised – 61 km/h. During school crossing times 54 and 60 respectively. A basic school crossing and two crossing guards now exist. To improve safety the city explored a pedestrian crossover (with flashing overhead X signs) but the road is too wide and traffic volume too high. A pedestrian signal also wouldn’t work due to not enough pedestrians. What’s recommended are radar signs flashing motorists’ speeds, yellow School Area signs, a Community Safety Zone “where public safety is a concern.” And flexible bollards to separate car and bike lanes. Motorists have been parking in the bike lanes to drop off or pick up children “impeding their ability to see” the guards and creating generally unsafe conditions. The costs: $13,850 for two radar signs plus $500 annual maintenance, $3600 for two school area and community safety zone signs plus $300 maintenance. And almost $9500 for the bollards plus winter removal of just over $2200 and $4500 annually for maintenance and replacements due to inevitable damage. Total: just under $35,000. That compares to between $60,000 and $100,000 for the other two options. Also, Removal of the existing two crossing guards would save $6250 or half that if one removed.

Via Rail to unveil “train of tomorrow”

WindsorOntarioNew.com Nov 17 2021

The passenger train experience is about to get a lot different – and better. Via Rail will be introducing an entirely new fleet of trains on the Windsor – Quebec City corridor beginning late next year. The corridor carries the overwhelming number of Via’s passengers – 97 per cent of its 427 trains over a 12,500-kilometre network. The new trains have a sleek look more reminiscent of rail travel in Europe than traditionally in Canada as per the accompanying photo. In a short video Via Rail shows a “train set” travelling with locomotive and built-in driving cab on the other end. These new “bi-directional” trains can operate in both directions without having to turn around saving time and operating costs. The colour scheme has also been changed with Via’s signature logo but a scheme of yellow, black and beige. And there won’t be just a few of the trains but almost three dozen train sets. “1 brand new train is nice. But 32 in the next few years is even better!” says Via in a public email. Via says it has been working on the new trains for four years. Besides the new look outside and in, the fleet will be cleaner with “state-of-the-art” diesel engines. They will also be built to last 30 years or 9,600,000 km. Via says passengers will experience a more comfortable ride, with wider seats and aisles and a "quiet zone." (On some railroads passengers in "quiet cars" must keep their voices to a minimum, cell phone use is prohibited and passengers must listen to electronic devices through headphones or ear buds). There will also be enhanced Wi-Fi with much lower overall noise. “The new fleet was designed to offer our passengers a more comfortable, accessible, sustainable and reliable travel experience, and we can’t wait to share more,” says Via. The trains are being built by Siemens Canada.

Photo: Via Rail

"Many complaints" about ArriveCAN

WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov 2 2021

By RON STANG, WON.com publisher

The ArriveCAN app is compulsory for Canadians and others entering Canada. The app asks for passport information and to upload photos of your vax certificates, as another preventative measure against Covid-19. The only problem is that it sometimes doesn’t work. It worked fine for me when I tested it on my phone prior to leaving for Greece. But a couple of days before returning home – you can only fill it out within 72 hours of arrival back in Canada – it simply didn’t work. I kept getting “sign-in failed” messages. I changed my password several times and it still didn’t work. I tried four different wi-fi connections around Athens and it didn’t work. I also submitted my problem to technical support but didn’t get a response. Finally, I went to the Canadian embassy and a receptionist, who knew nothing about the app, eventually allowed me to use a desktop computer. This time, using the ArriveCAN website instead of the app, it worked and I could fill it out. I had been concerned I wouldn’t be allowed to border my flight home. But all Air Canada demanded at check-in was proof of a negative PCR test. When I arrived at Pearson airport in Toronto I told the Customs’ official about my problem. He said the app’s questions could have been filled out upon arrival. I submitted this information to MP Chris Lewis’s office. Lewis’s office responded that it has received “many complaints” about the app and passed the complaint to the appropriate government department. Kelly Belanger, Director General, Information, Science and Technology Branch Canada Border Services Agency, replied that the dept. would investigate further if more information was provided. The official added that Canadian citizens, etc. who have not filled out the ArriveCAN app “will not be denied boarding of their flight.” Additionally, “Although the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has made ArriveCAN digital mandatory, these cohorts of travellers can complete the ArriveCAN paper form upon entry but may be subject to public health measures enforced by PHAC.” Said MP Chris Lewis, “The ArriveCan App has failed in its purpose to allow Canadians to efficiently enter their own country, causing stress and uncertainty for many travellers. The Trudeau government needs to ensure Canadians have a reliable and secure system to guarantee they can arrive home safely.”

"Prohibitively expensive" PCR tests greet people who need one for travel

WindsorOntarioNews.com October 5 2021

Want to take that first post-Covid international vacation? It will cost you. Most countries, including the United States (so far, only if you’re flying) require a PCR test prior to arrival. To get that test in Windsor you will have to shell out about $200 plus HST. That appears the going rate of clinics that offer PCR travel tests. There are five clinics in the Windsor area that offer the tests, posted on the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit website. These include Medical Laboratories of Windsor at $199 + HST. Audacia Biuoscience’s tests also start at $199 and offers a test + certificate for $230 and a ‘China Package” for $350 (includes other testing such as a venous blood draw). It’s not just Windsor. CBC News reported earlier this year that tests can range from $160 to $1200 and doctors and experts warning that without regulation this could be an out-of-control industry. This contrasts dramatically to the free tests offered by public health in Windsor-Essex for people suspecting they have Covid symptoms. Testing sites include local hospitals and, again, the Medical Laboratories of Windsor. Another concern of experts is the lack of medical oversight in terms of the efficacy of the tests. The CBC quoted Dr. Anna Banerji, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. ”Who's doing the tests? What are the standards? How do we know that they're doing it at the same sensitivity and specificity as those done in provincial labs or hospital labs?" Anecdotally WON.com has heard of PCR test costing as little as $25 US in the United States and under $100 Can in Europe. WON.com also contacted Ambarish Chandra, Associate Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at U of Toronto, who agreed that the tests are “prohibitively expensive.” One of the Windsor test sites is at a pharmacy, another is an adjunct to a family physician’s office. Another appears to have a wide variety of experience in travel vaccinations and testing. Chandra said this is an example of a “captive” marketplace. “It is in the interests of large medical organizations and testing facilities to ensure that cheap, rapid tests are not available to the general population as this would cut off a lucrative source of revenue.”

Photo: Wikimedia

City to remove several traffic signals

WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 14 2021

To the, no doubt, applause of many motorists, the City of Windsor is planning to remove several traffic signals from various intersections – six in all. These include Brock at Sandwich St., Campbell Ave. at Grove, Aylmer at Chatham St, E., Kildare at Seneca, Lauzon Rd. at McHugh St. (Tim Hortons) and Banwell at Mulberry. The city reviewed traffic based on “resident or other related complaints,” says a city report going to the city's transportation committee’s September meeting. “Many signals…..fall well below the volume, pedestrian and other criteria for a new signal to be installed,” the report says. It adds that it is “not clear, based on available data, why the signals at these intersections were installed originally. Many are very old and warrant criteria may have changed, expected developments may have not come to fruition, traffic patterns of drivers may have changed, they may have been installed for political reasons.” Having signals where they’re not warranted can create negative consequences. For example, “when signal phasing causes longer wait times, both drivers and pedestrians tend to become impatient and violate red lights, or drivers cut through neighbourhood streets to avoid the congestion or stopping at the signal.” The former signal at Tecumseh Rd. E. and Joe St. Louis previously had an average of five collisions yearly. After 2017 there have been only two collisions. “Reverse” traffic warrants are used to determine whether a signal will be removed, measuring traffic volumes, pedestrians, lanes, and speeds - the same as if a signal was to be installed. The report notes reasons for removals. The signal at Aylmer Ave. and Chatham St. E., for example, has little traffic because the casino “is not generating the significant levels of traffic that were anticipated and with the opening of the west wing, most traffic goes west from there or north on Goyeau to Riverside Drive.”

More visitors during lockdowns brought more litter, other abuse, to Point Pelee

WindsorOntarioNews.com August 24 3021

More people than ever used Canada’s federal and provincial parks last year. As many as 13 million visited Ontario parks alone. The reason? Covid-19 lockdowns had people heading for the relatively safe great outdoors and away from cities. All well and good, say park officials. But with the additional visitor traffic came problems. These include more littering, people heading off-path, and other behaviour which threatened protected areas. While most people respect the parks “even a relatively small number of visitors who do not behave responsibly can cause significant challenges for parks and protected places,” Parks Canada southwestern Ontario spokeswoman Elizabeth LeBlanc says. This occurred even in Canada’s most southern park here in Essex County. “Many Parks Canada administered places, including Point Pelee National Park, had issues with littering, illegal parking, and speeding. Crowding on trails and in some popular destinations, like the west beaches at the park, was also an issue,” she said. A new campaign, For the Love of Parks, appeals to the public to take a greater stewardship role when it comes to parks. Litter and garbage, for example, pose specific risks. “Garbage and waste not only impact other people's enjoyment of a place but pose a risk to wildlife,” LeBlanc says. “Human food harms wildlife. We need the support of all visitors to ensure wildlife do not access human food, garbage or other natural attractants.” Among measures parks staff hope the public will adopt include planning ahead by checking parks’ websites to find what areas are open and “how to prepare” for a visit. Visitors should also bring their own “clean-trip kit, including hand sanitizer, garbage bags, masks when recommended by health authorities, as well as table cloths if you plan to use a picnic table.”

Photo: Wikimedia

Goderich rebuilt in remarkable time after town was hit by 2011 tornado

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 30 2021

A modernistic stage (photo left) is symbolic of the new spirit that embraced Goderich after the devastating 2011 tornado. The stage replaced an obsolete gazebo on “The Square,” the town’s historic cetrepiece hosting the longtime courthouse. The old gazebo was “was terrible, the acoustics were bad, you couldn’t see the performers,” Mayor John Grace said. The new stage and canopy was made from a 1918 shipwreck’s broken hull hung upside down over a performing arts stage, part of efforts by the town after the tornado to modernize and attract businesses and tourists. Goderich was dubbed “the prettiest town in Canada” by Queen Elizabeth. The tourist and business community on Lake Huron suffered a massive F3 tornado August 21, 2011, which caused widespread destruction. But to visit the almost 8,000 population community now you’d never know the event occurred. Sure, a few downtown business facades look new. But the business district leading from The Square to the waterfront and extensive beaches is vibrant and virtually unchanged. Astonishingly, most of the town was rebuilt in only a couple of years. Grace said the town didn’t wallow in pity. Instead, it consulted an urban expert and seized the opportunity to rebuild with new ideas. This meant a reconfiguration of The Square as well as installing new infrastructure to allow businesses to flourish. As Grace put it, the town had “a chance to bring a new 21st century downtown to rural Ontario.” Around the courthouse, sidewalks were widened, more public areas added for flea markets and concerts. A greater assortment of trees were planted. New utility lines also provide greater and safer power to businesses. “We were having fires every couple of years,” Grace said. Facades had to be rebuilt because bricks got pushed in by the tornado. “Nobody noticed it until 8 or 9 months after the tornado and all of a sudden all the bricks are falling off these buildings,” he said. They have now been rebricked. Meanwhile, Grace said the waterfront is splendid with a rebuilt shoreline and 1.8 km boardwalk. “We’re putting in wi-fi down there,” he said. “Yesterday I think we had over 800 vehicles down there.”

Photo: Trip Advisor

100 Kellogg Lane, reimagined old cereal factory, pops London’s Old East Village

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 28 2021

London’s Old East Village, long a collection of restaurants, pubs, coffee houses and boutiques in an older part of the city, has now really popped with the addition of 100 Kellogg Lane. The massive former Kellogg’s factory offers one of the most innovative recreation and entertainment facilities in Canada. The village is just a few blocks east of downtown and encompasses the Western Fair grounds and famers market. It’s become a hip destination in recent years with almost 40 eateries along its historic streets. “It’s really exciting to come and see,” says Susan Judd of the Southwestern Ontario Tourism Corp. We found Korean, Thai and Ethiopian restaurants listed and four craft breweries. Ethnic bakeries, even a couple of distilleries line the streets. There are about the same number of shops and services like salons and yoga studios, from the Worlds Away “geek cave” comics store to Odyssey Records. And Neo Tokyo, specializing in Japanese animation, to the Mystic Bookshop selling witchcraft and occult books. But the new centrepiece has to be 100 Kellogg Lane, the massive, converted Kellogg’s campus. It features The Factory, dubbed Canada’s largest indoor adventure park. Spanning 170,000 sq. ft. it has the largest ropes course in the world – that’s right, the world! There’s zip lines, a huge arcade, and an ultimate warrior course. Check out Next Level Virtual Reality, again the largest in Canada with 24 HTCTM headsets and 22 gaming pods. Get lost and solve puzzles in the Mystery Escape Rooms. The Club House features more than 30 of the world’s most iconic golf courses which you can play on simulators. The London Children’s Museum is moving there this year and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is located there as well. The Powerhouse Brewery offers tours and tastings and Paradigm Spirits is coming soon. And for accommodation there’s top of line Hard Rock Hotel. “It’s really excellent to see such an investment being put into the east end of London,” Judd said. “If people haven’t been there, I think it would be a really great experience for them.”

Photo: 100 Kellogg Lane

Ghostly downtowns punctuate otherwise beautiful Bruce scenery

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 4 2021

The one lingering memory of a short trip along the Lake Huron coast over to Georgian Bay is the ghostly appearance of all the otherwise vibrant and touristy small shoreline towns. Goderich, Kincardine, Tiverton, Port Elgin and Southampton had so few people and cars on their onetime bustling thoroughfares you could, well, proverbially shoot a cannon down the streets. Very sad. But such is life in locked down Ontario even during an otherwise great late spring weekend. Not that there weren’t – some – people around. But they were down at the beaches. And beaches aplenty there are, most having seen major upgrades with boardwalks, themed lighting and other amenities over the past decade. The first surprise was Goderich. After a devastating tornado hit “Canada’s prettiest town” in 2011 it now looks like there had never been a massive storm. Driving around Courthouse Park it was hard to see what buildings had ever been damaged. That’s great of course and shows the remarkable effort that rebuilt the town in only a few short years. Meanwhile, it was interesting along the route to see all the references to “southwest” Ontario while, point of pride, the real southwest to people from Windsor-Essex is right here. But the longtime “Bluewater” (Lake Huron) designation is certainly apt. The other difference between there and here is the historic architecture. Red brick dominates the Windsor area. There, like in London, the brick is of a faded yellow because there is less iron in the clay soil. Most of these towns not only have nice beaches but great marinas and inlets or rivers, perfect for canoeing or kayaking. Driving east between Owen Sound and Meaford you come to the end of a plateau and a spectacular view of western Georgian Bay (photo). It’s a short hop from here to the Blue Mountain ski resort and Collingwood. But Blue Mountain was shuttered tight. Sure, there were strollers. But every trendy upscale bar and restaurant was dark, and the hotels shut. Neighboring Collingwood has beautiful downtown Hurontario Street with blocks of interesting retail shops – alas, mostly closed. Collingwood increasingly looks like the GTA with Toronto-style subdivisions. Must be retirees taking in the great skiing and summer hiking. Even a local couldn’t explain it. “It might be because people are moving here and working remotely because of Covid.”

An unofficial Ontario-Quebec travel bubble among wider border closure

WindsorOntarioNews.com May 19 2021

Despite Quebec yesterday announcing an easing of Covid restrictions one thing that will still remain closed is the Ontario-Quebec border. While Premier François Legault said travel among regions in Quebec would again be allowed, because of higher Covid cases in other provinces and internationally, other border restrictions will remain in effect. That is, with one major exception. WON.com has learned that while non-essential travel is discouraged, the border between Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau, across the Ottawa River, is open. Therefore, Ontarians and Quebecers can freely travel back and forth between the cities. Sgt. Benoit Richard of the Sûreté du Québec (Quebec provincial police) said the roadblocks between the provinces are “not stiff.” Unlike Ontario, which has a hard roadblock on Hwy. 401, those entering Quebec won’t face a traffic stop. But police may indeed randomly stop an Ontario vehicle if they see one and turn the driver back. Richard said when the border closed last month it was pandemonium between Ottawa and Gatineau, about the same distance as Windsor is from Detroit and served by five bridges. “We saw the first day it was closed in Gatineau and Ottawa it was hell during the first two hours,” he told WON.com. “Like we had cars waiting for maybe an hour, an hour and a half, to get through to Ottawa and some of those people were working for the hospitals in Ottawa.” So, if only for practical puropses, unofficially the two cities are in a bubble and people can move back and forth. These days there are fewer Covid restrictions on the Quebec side than in Ontario. Reported local Ottawa CTV, despite a stay-at-home order in Ontario, some Ottawa residents crossed to Gatineau to go shopping. One, Gideon Kamunga, visited Costco and Sports Experts. "We were at home for so long so it is nice to just get out and buy a (basketball) ball for example," he said. Another Ottawa resident Robert Lalonde said he wasn’t surprised to see other Ontario shoppers. He said he was buying mostly food. "We could have gone to another store," he said. "We did buy some clothes." But while these cities are in an unofficial bubble if you’re an Ontario resident don’t expect to travel further afield, at least if your car has Ontario plates. Those Quebec provincial police, if they see you, are liable to just turn you around.

Image: Newslocker.com

Covid variant highway roadblocks but what about plane and train travel?

WindsorOntarioNews.com May 6 2021

As per many anomalies in rules during the pandemic, especially regarding travel, the closing of the border between Ontario and Quebec (and Manitoba) last month didn’t mean it was closed entirely to everyone. Provincial police set up roadblocks along Hwy. 401 at Bainsville on April 19 checking on whether motorists have legitimate reason for crossing the interprvincial border. For example, if a person must work or attend an educational institution, they can still cross. Or if someone is travelling through Quebec to another province they can even stay overnight in Quebec along their journey. Rules are basically reciprocal for those entering Ontario. And if they're a provincial resident they of course are allowed entry. But if not travelling by car it gets fuzzy. Quebec allows exemption for “A person who is required to enter Québec or cross the border as part of an international trip or a trip to another province by bus, train, ferry, or plane.” And, indeed, Air Canada and VIA Rail are still booking travel to the province whether passengers are going somewhere else or not. “VIA Rail will continue all scheduled services. Passengers are responsible to comply with provincial restrictions,” the railway says on its website and links to the emergency travel legislation. Said VIA spokeswoman Claudia Labelle, “In this context, we remind our passengers that it is their responsibility to comply with current provincial restrictions. We remain in contact with provincial authorities and we will adapt our service according to the evolution of the situation.” WON.com attempted to reach both Quebec and Ontario provincial police to ask if they were also checking non-highway travellers but didn't receive a response from either agency. [UPDATE May 7: QC provincial police spokesman Sgt. Benoit Richard said there are only random car checks and he advises train and plane passengers would have "the decency" to respect Covid regs.]

New in 2021: paved bike lanes between Amherstburg and Holiday Beach

WindsorOntarioNews.com April 21 2021

Look for a major new bicycle lane paving project coming this year to southwestern Essex County. The County of Essex will be paving the shoulders of County Rd. 20 from Front Rd. South in Amherstburg through to County Rd. 50. That’s the old scenic drive that borders Lake Erie and has become increasingly popular in recent years as an agritourist route alongside wineries and fruit stands. From County Rd. 20 the shoulders of County Rd. 50 will also be paved as far as Holiday Beach Conservation Area. From there “they can use the road network within the conservation lands to access Lake Erie,” Jerry Behl, the county’s manager of transportation planning and development, says. This follows on a project last summer that saw both sides of Front Rd. S. paved, enabling seamless access to downtown Amherstburg. The new paving will add 8.6 km of paved lanes. Meanwhile, County Rd. 50 has bike lanes in places – such as through the village of Colchester – but still does not have connected lanes all the way through to Holiday Beach. No word on when that paving will take place. Other projects, part of CWATS (County Wide Active Transportation System) this year include three in Kingsville. One is a multi-use trail along County Rd. 45 between County Rd. 20 and County Rd. 34 for 1.5 km. Another is a two-kilometre paved shoulder on County Rd. 34 between Inman Sideroad and Rd. 29. And a third is 2.1 km. of paved shoulders along County Rd. 34 between Upcott and Inman roads. There are also two projects in Essex - 2.9 km of paved shoulders along Rd. 18 from Rd. 23 to McCormick and a connection a half kilometre connection along Rd. 18. In Lakeshore a feasibility study will be carried out to improve “active transportation” along Rd. 2 between Brighton and East Pike Creek roads “and in particular on the bridge crossing Pike Creek,” (photo) Behl said. Why these projects? Behl said priority is given to areas with highest potential demand, have “critical gaps” in the trail network or align with county infrastructure projects. “The County tries to schedule CWATS route implementation with capital road improvements to achieve economies of scale and reduce cost,” he said in an email. Total project costs are $1.6 million. The county alone absorbs rural costs. Urban projects are split 60-40 between the county and local municipality.

Photo: CWATS

New Lakeshore Holiday Inn a trifecta

WindsorOntarioNews.com April 1 2021

A new eastside hotel is a trifecta. The largest hotel between Chatham and Windsor, the first high rise on the east side, and the first new major hotel in Windsor in probably 20 years. The new Holiday Inn Express & Suites will open April 24 at 14 Amy Croft Dr. in Lakeshore, just off Manning Rd. It also marks the first of several similar hotel projects that the developer, David Petretta, will bring to southwestern Ontario. The area has been underserved by the hospitality industry, ironic given the booming housing, industrial and recreational opportunities in east Windsor, Lakeshore and Tecumseh. “I did a market study for it in east Windsor and the reality is, from downtown Windsor to Chatham, there wasn’t a hotel,” said Petretta, whose new hotel development company is the Petcon (for Petretta Construction) Hospitality group. The six-storey hotel will have 105 rooms. It won’t be a full-service hotel like the Holiday Inn on Huron Church Rd. which has a restaurant and bar. But it will offer free breakfast and has two large meeting rooms. But the $20 million hotel is next door to numerous restaurants, bars and grocery. The building features the brand’s new “blue design” with a contemporary esthetic. Advanced technology includes “unique” IHG Connect high speed internet, Petretta said. Petretta says the market is largely business travellers weekday and families weekends, especially sports related stays in proximity to the WFCU and Atlas Tube centres. Given the east side’s housing, industrial and commercial boom, the tower’s location is in “actually a really interesting mixed-use area now.” Condo projects are also going up in the neighbourhood, in fact on the same former Tecumseh Golf land as the hotel. (See BUILDINGS, HOMES & REAL ESTATE). The project also allows Petretta to diversify his portfolio. Other of his buildings include TD Bank and The Keg downtown, Dolce Vita Retirement on Erie St. and Tregaskiss industrial.

Tunnel's Detroit freeway connection will eventually turn into a boulevard

WindsorOntarioNews.com March 16 2021

Windsor motorists used to a quick zip from the Windsor-Detroit tunnel up I-75 to venues like Oakland Mall and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets will have their rides slowed down - eventually - at least in downtown Detroit. The changes probably won’t come until late this decade. The freeway, known as I-375 which runs from Jefferson Ave. by the RenCen one mile north to the I-75 interchange, will be converted into a regular city boulevard, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). I-375 opened in 1964 and is nearing “the end of its useful service,” says an MDOT report. Why not just rebuild it? Mainly to create “stronger vehicular connection” to the eastern side of downtown Detroit rather than the sunken limited-access current highway, which mostly walls off downtown. The boulevard would likely see three through lanes in each direction along with turning lanes and a landscaped median strip. There would also be bike lanes and sidewalks. MDOT says the current design also has a tight ramp-like turn from I-375 on to Jefferson Ave. which has been the scene of “major accidents” over the years. The new boulevard would have traffic lights at seven intersections and there would be a “two to seven-minute delay” in travel depending on the direction. But while, say, Windsor motorists would be slightly impeded by taking a stop-and-go route to Detroit’s northern suburbs, it would also give them easier access to Detroit’s downtown and sports and retail sites like Ford Field and Eastern Market. MDOT’s Rob Morosi says his agency hopes to obtain federal “clearance” this summer to begin the design which will take “several years to complete.” Public consultations have found most Detroiters are “positive” to the conversion. Once the border re-opens Canadian motorists will still be using I-375 for some time. Morosi said construction isn’t expected to begin until Spring 2027 though MDOT will “evaluate opportunities to perform the project earlier.”

Image: MDOT

On-demand transit could be the answer to underutilized routes, rural areas

WindsorOntarioNews.com February 16 2021

On-demand transit could be coming to a street corner, or even your front door, in the near future. It’s part of the Transit Windsor Master Plan (image), which will be deliberated by city council later this year. And a feasibility study, pending provincial approval, is expected to launch this summer. On-demand could be the answer to many local transit woes. Rather than have largely empty buses travel along fixed routes with low ridership, vehicles would respond to exactly where passengers need them. “That is kind of the future of transit especially in areas that are underserviced,” Transit Windsor GM Tyson Cragg told WON.com. On-demand is part of a transit master plan approved just over a year ago that would see a massive overhaul of local bus operations. For example, rather than the current radial bus route pattern routes could go to a grid in the city. Meanwhile, “underutilized” routes or areas with low-density populations could still see transit but in an entirely different form. “That is kind of the future of transit especially in areas that are underserviced,” says Cragg, who joined TW last year from London Transit where he was operations manager. “There’s a lot of industrial areas out there where there’s calls to provide services,” he said. Rural areas could also see such routes. On-demand could use vehicles ranging from vans to full size buses. A community like Innisfil, Ontario, north of Toronto, is the “poster child” for on-demand, using Uber for transport, Cragg said. “It’s just an example that there’s a lot of innovative stuff out there." (Windsor’s incoming new CAO Jason Reynar was Innisfil’s CAO.) Cragg says the concept isn’t entirely new. As far back as the 1970s some cities had dial-up transit. Now, on-demand would probably primarily use a smart phone app. “You’d call from home and say I need a bus to come pick me up at whatever cul de sac or residential street with super low density, the bus would take you to a transfer point where the trip continues on a fixed route,” Cragg said.

Image: Transit Windsor

Councillor fears blow to tourism if Colchester boutique hotel shot down

WindsorOntarioNews.com January 26 2021

Essex town councillor Chris Vander Doelen is afraid the burgeoning County Rd. 50 tourist route could lose a new star attraction. Essex town council has postponed a decision on converting the 140-year-old Colchester schoolhouse by three months. In a Facebook post he calls that a “horrible”: decision especially in light of the fact the building’s purchase has a Jan. 31 deadline. That “effectively means we have killed the most promising development offer the town has seen in a decade or more.” The $2.3 million project would convert the landmark into a stylish boutique hotel. Vander Doelen says those who voted to “delay” said they are “in favour” but “not now, and just not there, and just not the way they are doing it.” Project opponents “invariably say” the building should be turned into a community centre but there is one “a few thousand feet away,” he said. Others like the idea of a park “except that nearly half of central Colchester already is official greenspace.” The town in recent years invested millions of dollars building the harbour, marina and beach, including the children’s pirate ship. Vander Doelen also says the hotel would help stem the proliferation of Airbnbs - there are now about 30 – “which many residents see as a plague.” Colchester is in the heart of the expanding County Rd. 50 wine and agri-tourism region, attracting an increasing number of visitors from near and far. Council split the vote. Those who voted to proceed included Mayor Larry Snively and councillors Morley Bowman and Joe Garon. Councillor Sherry Bondy voted to delay because the public had not been consulted. “I believe that when council sells a public property that has cultural or heritage value public opinion should be sought,” she told WON.com. Nor did the heritage committee make a recommendation. She said Jan. 18 was the first time the plan had been presented and admitted it “was beautiful.” But she pointed to “much opposition” to the project in a residential area. And she said those who voted in favour are “out of touch” with the local community. Bondy is holding a virtual town hall meeting Jan. 31 at 7 pm to get public response.

[UPDATE Feb 3: The developers have put off their decision until March.]

Photo: Vander Doelen/Facebook

London's Thames Valley Parkway - some 40 km of walking or cycling joy

WindsorOntarioNews.com January 14 2021

Windsor-Essex may have the Chrysler Greenway and the Herb Gray Parkway trail on the city’s west side. Meanwhile, there is a hodgepodge of cycling and walking trails in various parts of the city that are either distinct or only connect in isolated segments. But the City of London last fall added a key link to its 44 km. Thames Valley Parkway (TVP), “one of the best recreational pathways in the country,” Mayor Ed Holder said at the time. Two new bridges opened to allow residents to cross the city’s Thames River allowing 50,000 people to directly connect between Western University and downtown. City parks official Andrew Macpherson told WON.com the trail now may not be the longest urban one in Canada but relative to the city’s size it is “comparable on a smaller scale.” The trail system is based on an old electrical railway right of way that stretches west from downtown following the Thames River to Springbank Park. The trail begins at the “forks of the Thames” downtown with sections going west, north, and southeast. After decades to build – starting in 1980s – with last fall’s link-up there are only two 500-metre sections that use local roads and these have little traffic - “very safe for family travel,” MacPherson said. The trail’s scenery varies from the downtown and urban core to linked parkland heading west. Going north is parkland and natural scenery, going east is “three quarters” natural, Macpherson said. Perhaps the most scenic section is the south leg. “It’s a very pretty ride if you’re looking for natural landscapes,” he said. There are as many as 50 places to park your car and get on the Trail. There are major parking lots at Springbank and Greenway parks. For Windsorites seeking a day trip, you can park just off Hwy. 401. at Wellington Rd. The TVP links to 150 km of smaller trails in all corners of the city. It has an asphalt surface and is between 2.4 and 4 metres wide and designed for two-way walking and cycling travel. Macpherson suggests one route. Get on the trail at Springbank Park. “You can ride all the way to the northeast corner of the city and that would be 25-30 kms, turn around and come back. So a good 60 km ride on a safe and scenic pathway.” You can find the TVA on the city’s interactive CityMap.

Photo: City of London

Major overhaul would add hotel, boutiques to Detroit riverfront site

WindsorOntarioNews.com November 18 2020

Detroit is moving ahead with the next steps to revitalize one of its most iconic historic sites, Historic Fort Wayne, right across the Detroit River from Windsor and in the shadow of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge. While an active tourist site – opened pre-pandemic on weekends and an active spot for numerous community events and wedding parties – many of its buildings are dilapidated. Recently a draft plan for redevelopment also would take the fort to the next level. This would include a cafe, boutique hotel, tourist-oriented retail and a pedestrian walkway connecting to Detroit’s RiverWalk downtown and beyond. But it could take up to $100 million to revive the site. The fort served as an induction center for the military from the Civil War up to the Vietnam War. There are some 40 historic structures in various conditions over the almost 80-acre campus. The fort also hosts a parade grounds and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum. But delays in rehabilitating the fort have been ongoing for decades. Finally, however, the Detroit City Council agreed to pay $110,000 to the U. S. General Services Administration to amend three deeds and implement a preservation covenant to protect the fort’s character. The city has already accepted five concepts from various planners. The deed changes mean the city can now team with private partners to restore the site and open it to new uses like boutiques and restaurants.

Photo: Wikipedia

A Manitoulin first timer

By Ron Stang, Publisher WindsorOntarioNews.com October 21 2020

The “Hawberry” motel? What the heck is a hawberry? Well, says the receptionist at the small hotel on Little Current’s main street, it’s what the Manitoulin Island early settlers, who had little food or supplies, “had to live on - not that it was the best tasting berry in the world!” So, a little history about this island – the largest island in the world surrounded by fresh water – was a fine introduction to this northern enclave in Lake Huron. To get there, it’s an unexpected six-hour drive to Tobermory and the Chi-Cheemaun ferry (make reservations). Driving along the southern Bruce Peninsula there are, surprisingly, Mennonites in their horse-driven wagons. Another surprise: Tobermory – tiny tiny, but with a horseshow harbour ringed by souvenir and food shops. The Chi-Cheemaun takes two hours to cross to South Baymouth. Then a quick 45-minute drive along superb blacktop – complete with bicycle lanes – to the northeast's Little Current. This being “northern” Ontario one might expect more forest and hills. Rather, Manitoulin has vast expanses of farmland not dissimilar to southern Ontario. But there are some spectacular water views entering Little Current, a summer tourist mecca almost touching the mainland. The town’s historical highlight is the black swing bridge. Downtown offers a row of shops including Turners Crafts ‘n More, The Island Jar whole food market, the Loco Beanz coffee shop and the town’s main dining and gathering spot, the Anchor Hotel. Just down the street is the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. Across is the picturesque boardwalk and water views looking to the North Channel. A 45-minute drive west along Highway 540 takes you through several First Nations reserves and to Kagawong. Check out the Bridal Veil Falls and Hiking Trail and get lost in the fall colours. Gore Bay, half-way across the island, is another premiere tourist spot with wide water access and marina. On the east is a high bluff offering spectacular views south, west and north. You can drive an hour further west to Meldrum Bay, another marine and touristy town. But driving south from Gore Bay offers mainly agricultural lands with a few lakes surrounded by cottages. Providence Bay offers a beautiful beach, park and children’s playground, with a spectacular vista across Lake Huron. For outdoor enthusiasts – the kind who like to exercise their legs - Manitoulin has numerous biking and hiking trails. There are more than 20 hiking routes from less than one kilometre long to more than 10 km.

Photo: Manitoulin tourism

"Canada’s Victorian Oil Town"

WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 30 2020

A new four-storey boutique hotel will become a major tourist landmark in Petrolia, the birthplace of Canada’s oil industry. Petrolia is an hour and a half from Windsor and 20 km southeast of Sarnia. The Kingswell Hotel, with 31 rooms, is expected to open in 2022. It’s among a number of recent acquisitions by an ownership group headed by Jenna Gorzeman. The group has also acquired the historic Kingswell Glen 18-hole golf club and owns Crabby Joe’s Bar and Grill. The golf course is one of Canada’s most historic and dates to 1895. Originally a six-hole course it was inspired by St. Anne’s in Scotland. It was founded by the early oil barons, led by Jake Englehart. According to Tourism Sarnia-Lambton executive director Mark Perrin in recent years the town has developed much cachet rebranding itself as a heritage industry town with British Victorian roots. The Victoria Playhouse (photo shows theatre and town hall) has long been a destination for its active theatre though the schedule was postponed this year due to Covid-19. “It’s that Victorian heritage where most of their events and concerts centre around,” Perrin says. Townsfolk on special occasions dress in Victorian costume and welcome tourists into homes for lunch. Perrin says the town has been “really creative” in showcasing its history and heritage “of a really booming community which has been brought back to life.” Petrolia, population 5700, is dubbed “Canada’s Victorian Oil Town.” Oil in fact was discovered in the 1850s just “down the road” in Oil Springs, part of the PTA (Petrolia Greater Area) a humorous play on Toronto’s GTA. “Oil Springs and the Petrolia Discovery were really the first two major sites of the oil industry,” Perrin says. But the oil barons lived in Petrolia and their mansion-like houses are still there. But tourists can visit the Oil Museum itself in Oil Springs. In Petrolia the downtown has several restaurants and pubs as well as bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs. Also check out the Black Gold craft brewery, the name capitalizing oil heritage - black gold, get it? “It’s just something else to really feel the vibe,” Perrin says.

Photo: Wikipedia

Decades old original bridge proposal exactly where new bridge being built

WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 8 2020

By coincidence, the location of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) happens to be essentially where one of the early proponents of a new bridge, 20 years ago, suggested it should be built. That’s Ross Clarke, land surveyor and former managing director of the Mich-Can International Bridge Company. Clarke, now 80, has been a well-known local businessman and community leader and at one time chaired the local chamber of commerce and was president of Essex County Development. He recently sold his venerable Clarke Surveyors business as he moves into full retirement. Back around 1990 Mich-Can put forward an “unsolicited proposal” to privately build a badly-needed new Windsor-Detroit bridge. The location: west end Windsor next door to the Windsor salt mine. Ten years later a government planning process finally ensued and 15 possible bridge crossing sites were examined. Clarke told WON.com: “The bridge is being built exactly where we said it should be built. But they had to go through the environmental assessment up and down the river because (then competing Ambassador Bridge owner Matty) Maroun would have nailed them to the wall if they hadn’t have done that.” Clarke added that Maroun “like any good businessman” understandably tried to protected his franchise. (That included launching numerous and prolonged litigation.) “And they ended up right in the place where they are today.” Mich-Can would have built the bridge without government funding, using bonds paid off by tolls. In addition to more than $500 million in preliminary costs, the publicly funded GHIB, a P3, is costing $5.7 billion, the feds footing more than 80 per cent, the private construction consortium, Bridging North America, the remainder. Ottawa will collect all tolls. The bridge is slated for completion in late 2024.– 9/8/20

Leamington's new urban style buses will have all the bells and whistles

WindsorOntarioNews.com August 14 2020

The town of Leamington will be getting two spiffy new city style transit buses made by the same company that manufactures London England’s famed red double deckers. The town ordered the buses back in April and provincial transit funding for them was recently announced. The new buses will be quite different from the existing school bus type buses operated by Leamington Transit. They are Enviro200 buses designed for the North American market. The manufacturer is Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) Britain’s largest bus builder and which has North American manufacturing facilities in Indiana. The actual cost is $1.08 million but provincial grants and the Ontario transit gas tax reserve will cover all the costs. There are also yearly operating costs of almost $28,000, which the town will pay. The price may seem large but it is what it is. “Yes, this is today's market for a small size (10.5 meter) conventional transit bus. A regular size conventional bus fully outfitted will push $700k," said Robert Sharon, the town’s Director of Infrastructure Services. The buses will be compliant with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), as are current buses. They will be “low floors” without steps, compared to the “cutaway” buses that now exist and which have the look of school buses. There will carry audio and visual stop announcements. The buses will have hi tech features including automatic passenger counters, which assist in government funding, determining route stops, planning and emergencies such as accident reconstruction. They will include optional real time passenger information, media management and web displays. The first allows passengers to see when their bus will arrive and alert schedule changes. The second allows “media” to play onboard with “preprogrammed information.” It can be used for tourism or “targeted” info to passengers. The third is a web display. “This is a low-cost way of providing transit information at hubs or strategic locations such as malls and hospitals,” a town report says. The buses have 24 seats and two wheelchair spaces and offer “improved passenger and driver comfort.” They also have longer life spans from 12-20 years “depending on refurbishment decisions,” Sharon said. The transit system has one main route and a summer route is currently suspended due to Covid-19.

Windsor to Ottawa and back

By Ron Stang, Publisher, WindsorOntarioNews.com August 4 2020

A late August road trip between Windsor and Ottawa seemed almost normal. Traffic along Hwy. 401 looked at its regular pace and even for a Sunday relatively robust through Toronto and beyond. The ONroute service centres had Covid-19 protocols but at one centre, the men’s urinals were spaced every second urinal for use; not so at another. Beyond Toronto an ONroute centre was so crowded there was a Covid line-up – social distancing - outside. No thanks. Exiting at Trenton found a much quieter service station. The drive took us initially to Toronto Pearson International Airport to drop off a friend flying home to England. The airport wasn’t as deserted as I’d expected nor it’s old bustling self. And drivers remember, Terminal 3 is a long way from Terminal 1. (Terminal 2 was torn down long ago.) Beyond Toronto every third or fourth vehicle seemed from Quebec, many packed to the gills or towing boats or Sea-Doo’s. So much for lack of interprovincial travel during the pandemic. Ottawa had been in Stage 3 re-opening two weeks but shop owners were still getting their feet wet. One mall saw a number of store vacancies – sad – while opened stores had hand sanitizer at the front and the ubiquitous arrows on the floor, sometimes in lots of different directions! A hair salon took clients’ temperatures as condition of entry. A large and busy LCBO at 5 pm on a weekday had only two checkouts open, causing 10 - 15 minute waits; some things never change. Driving home to Windsor, Hwy. 7 was chosen as the “scenic route.” It really wasn’t. Past Lindsay a drive up to Muskoka on Hwy. 12 via Cannington along the east side of Lake Simcoe afforded absolutely no views of the lake. Then join claustrophobic divided Hwy. 11 for a further drive through had-seen-better-days retail and motels, into Gravenhurst. At last, a tranquil pretty town surrounded by water – the Muskoka experience! But there were few tourists about. In fact, major resorts seemed deserted (Muskoka Tourism didn’t return a request for comment.) But it was lovely driving along the southwest arm of Muskoka Bay up to Bala, the shore dotted with cottages presumably filled with vacationers. Then a drive south to Port Severn on Georgian Bay – a surprise how tiny and unoccupied the place was. The final sprint home along Hwy. 400, exiting west on Hwy. 9 via Orangeville, Georgetown and Halton Hills. These were indeed hills. With twists and turns, discrete farms and orchards and historic towns, Halton Hills was almost as memorable as Muskoka.

Photo: Gravenhurst.ca

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


New trains for Mich Amtrak services

A lot of train enthusiasts would like to restore seamless Chicago-Toronto rail service through a city like Windsor. But until such service ever resumes rail boosters on both side of the border will have to be content with the fact that both the Canadian and US companies providing passenger rail services will soon be adopting the same type of new equipment. (See Via Rail to unveil “train of tomorrow,” this page, Nov. 17 2021). Marc Magliari, spokesman for US Amtrak in Chicago, said Michigan Amtrak services will soon be using be using new Siemens manufactured trains. “New single-level equipment from Siemens, the same vendor used by VIA Rail Canada, will start making its way across the Amtrak Midwest Network, beginning in the next quarter,” he said. That network includes lines east from Chicago to Detroit, Port Huron and Grand Rapids. – 12/17/21

TW loses $95k from Greyhound closer

Transit Windsor will lose almost $94,000 due to Greyhound going out of business in Canada. That’s money it would have earned from leasing space at its downtown terminal. The loss is part of a proposed 2022 budget. That money, along with other added expenditures, will have to be made up reflected in a 4.82 per cent or $752k tax increase. That’s on top of the current year’s $15.5 million budget. Other increases: almost $630,000 for salaries, $800,000 fuel, $130,000 for more staff training and almost $200,000 to implement part of the transit master plan, Route 518X. A mandated new holiday for federally regulated workers will also cost $32,000. The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is observed Sept. 30. But since others will be going to work or school TW will run regular service “and employees are given another day in lieu of the holiday,” transit GM Tyson Cragg says. (One-time Covid expenditures amount to just over $5 million but this year the province covered that.) Expected additional revenue includes $670,000 in tunnel bus fare increase, $214,000 in gas tax revenue, $117,000 in the U-Pass increase (CPI) and $36,000 annual fare increase. – 11/18/21

ETR 407 charge? $40 for 73 km around TO

How much does it cost to use the 407 ETR toll road? How about $39.28? That was the charge for an early afternoon drive from Hwy. 401 in Whitby (via Hwy. 412) on the GTA’s east side to the junction of Hwy. 407 and 401 on the west, a distance of 72.952 km. That was in early afternoon on the August Civic Holiday Monday. Tolls are based on time of day. For instance, today, about the same time, a light vehicle without a transponder would be charged $44.93 ($40.73 with a transponder). This includes a $4.20 camera charge. – 11/5/21

Another way to get to St. Marys, Stratford

There’s a new way to get to places like St. Marys and Stratford from London. Starting Oct. 18 GO Transit will extend its Kitchener line to The Forest City with two daily trips. It’s actually a pilot project possibly intended to gauge line ridership though the province has been sketchy on details. It’s the first time GO Transit has extended service outside of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The province has said it wants to better connect local communities and there will be stops in St. Marys and Stratford and other municipalities along the Kitchener route heading into Toronto. But the entire London - Toronto trip will take four hours along a less direct northerly route. That compares to travel time from Windsor to Toronto on Via Rail that takes just over four hours. Another potential market for the GO line is students travelling between university towns like London and Kitchener-Waterloo. – 10/13/21

Landscaping, yes, not a building tear down

Earth-moving equipment outside the downtown Ontario Travel Information Centre this week doesn’t bode ill for the centre, a stone’s throw from the Windsor-Detroit tunnel exit on the edge of City Hall Square. Any fears of closure or demolition have been allayed. The province several years ago closed the Huron Church Rd. travel centre and the centres have generally been closed since early days of the pandemic. “The building is not being torn down,” ministry spokeswoman Denelle Balfour said. “The area outside of the Windsor Ontario Travel Information Centre currently has a landscape project underway to update the outside of the facility space.” The project won’t interrupt service there with hours Thursday to Saturday 9am to 5pm. – 9/22/21

Comment: The little things that matter

Given the strides YQG Windsor International Airport has made in recent years attracting new airlines (Covid excluded) and general airport upgrades to make the terminal experience more professional, it was surprising that the vending machine in the departure lounge on a mid-morning not only didn’t work but had sold out products. This is particularly irritating given the fresh food counter has been closed due to Covid restrictions. As well, the ticket machine for long term parking did not spit out a payment receipt, something especially grating for business customers. – 9/6/21

Going on vacay? Protect home first

It’s the last blowout of summer. With the dog days winding down, this is a time when many people, if they haven’t already, quit any pretension of work and kick back until Labour Day. But, if going away, don’t neglect your home. Reliance Home Comfort has some suggestions for protecting your house while on vacation. Adjust your thermostat so you’re not using more energy to keep the house cool when you’re not there. 16 C is considered optimum. Unplug your electronics such as TV or kitchen appliances. This will protect them from electrical surges during a power outage. Turning off the main water valve “can mean the difference between a small leak and a major flood,” Reliance says. – 8/24/21

Pre-boarding temp checks end Aug 9

Say goodbye to pre-flight airport temperature checks. Along with several other measures the government is introducing August 9 to ease cross-border travel, passengers waiting to board flights won’t have to have their temperatures read. ”Transport Canada will remove the requirement for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to perform pre-board temperature screening of passengers on all domestic flights and international departures (including Transborder), as well as airport workers,” the government says. The changes “will make the travel process more streamlined, ensuring that passengers spend less time in airports, while still maintaining necessary public health measures (e.g., wearing of masks at airports and on board all flights to, from and within Canada).” – 7/30/21

WestJet resumes Windsor - Calgary seasonal flights

WestJet has resumed service to Windsor. Service to and from Calgary began June 26 after the pandemic disrupted services last year. The service was always seasonal anyway. The last day of booking is Oct. 10. Flight times adhere to the former afternoon schedule with the Calgary to Windsor flight arriving 3.17 pm and the departure to Calgary at 4.05 pm. This coincides with resumption of many other Ontario flights this summer. The airline also offers more frequent service to and from London. “We thank Premier Ford and his government for their work in reopening a critical pathway for safe travel to and from the province.,” WestJet Chef Commercial Officer John Weatherill said in a release. – 7/9/21

View vines and 'bines'

You’ve heard of the vine. But what’s a bine? That’s the name of the climbing plant that hops, used in beer, are grown on. “When I created the company I didn’t want it to be too focused on wine,” says 0Susan Judd, co-owner of Ride the Bine tours based in the London area. The company has a surprisingly extensive number of tours over three areas – London, Norfolk County and Huron and Lambton including Lambton Shores along Lake Huron. And there are several tours – day and half day – within each region. For example, the "Lambton Mixer" takes patrons to three beer, wine and cider producers and serves a gourmet lunch. If that’s not enough the four-year-old company run by two women who both grew up on farms is planning to move west. “We’re looking at Chatham-Kent as well this summer,” Judd said. Because the geography is so large the company offers a van and pick up points where people can board tours. Another bonus: tours are offered year-round. – 6/22/21

Image: Ride the Bine

'Cathedral of power' opening in Niagara Falls this summer

Beginning July 1 you’ll have a whole new reason to go to Niagara Falls and experience one of Canada’s newest and most innovative tourist sites. Beginning Canada Day the 115-year-old Niagara Parks Power Station is opening as an immense and multifaceted technology museum. It was the first hydroelectric power plant in Canada and was largely responsible for southern Ontario’s industrialization. “We call it the cathedral of power,” Kim Viney, senior director of business development for Niagara Parks, told The Globe and Mail. “There’s a sense of awe and reverence you get when you enter those huge doors and walk into this space.” There will be guided and self-guided tours of the 173.7 metre long, 18.3 metre high main floor with hands-on exhibits that simulate emergencies. Generator Hall houses 11 mammoth generators creating 10,000 horsepower. “It’s the coolest space you’ll ever come across because every single floor has infrastructure and equipment that was built 115 years ago,” Marcelo Gruosso, senior director of engineering for Niagara Parks said. And coming next year, a glass-enclosed elevator will take visitors down a shaft and allow them to walk the almost 671 metres that it would have travelled – providing a new vantage point facing the American Falls and overlooking the Niagara Gorge. – 5/27/21

Photo: Niagara Parks

Lauzon Parkway in "constant need" of repairs - city staff

Lauzon Pkwy., a road that is in “constant need of repairs” is having the segment between Tecumseh Rd. and Hawthorne St. rehabbed this year for $2.5 million, subject to council approval, the public works department says. Other projects planned this year include Tecumseh Rd. E. from Walker Rd. to Drouillard roads as well as full reconstruction of EC Row between Dominion Blvd. and Dougall Ave. There are five other projects for a total value of $13 million. Next year the city has 13 projects on tap with the possibility of more EC Row work. The following year nine projects and three EC Row projects are slated. And in 2024-2025, almost 20 projects as well as EC Row work. The busy central city Howard-Tecumseh intersection would see full reconstruction in 2024. Construction value after 2021 amounts to more than $60 million. – 5/11/21

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Toronto to host Greek heritage museum

Toronto will be home to a new Greek-Canadian heritage Museum. The province announced $325,000 as a “first step” towards the project, said Archbishop Sotirios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada. The museum will be located at the Archdiocesan headquarters in Toronto. "Ontario is home to a proud and growing Greek community," Premier Ford said in a recent announcement. "This museum will provide a destination for everyone to celebrate Greek heritage and culture, right here in Toronto.” The museum will serve as a community hub and central repository for photos, historic newspapers, books and archived recorded histories. – 4/28/21

More Covid grants for small tourist operators

Small tourist operators harmed by the pandemic can apply to a new grant program offering from $10,000 to $20,000. Businesses with less than 100 staff must show they’ve lost minimum 20 per cent revenue. The Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant is open to hotels, motels, travel agencies, amusement and water parks, hunting and fishing camps, and recreational and vacation camps including children's overnight summer camps. Businesses that previously received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant are not eligible. The province has so far committed $625 million for the industry since the pandemic began. The sector has lost more than 200,000 jobs and $18 billion. – 4/1/21

More work for two major east and west side arteries

Get ready for more reconstruction on two major arteries. Huron Church Rd. will see reconstruction from Tecumseh Rd W. to College Ave. immediately south of the Ambassador Bridge due to “significantly deteriorated” conditions. Work includes demolition and replacement of existing concrete surface, sidewalks and median and traffic signals. More than 60,000 vehicles including more than 10,000 trucks use the section daily. Work will take place seven days 24 hours and a nighttime curfew exemption has been requested. Meanwhile round the clock work will also take place for reconstruction of Lauzon Pkwy. from Tecumseh Rd. E. to Hawthorne Dr. The work includes an open graded drainage layer to lessen the freeze thaw cycle. As well, demolition and replacement of the roadway and median will take place. Having round the clock construction will “minimize” the project’s duration near the commercial and residential neighbourhoods, says a city report. – 3/5/21

Another nearby Highway 401 section to be getting upgrade

Look for another section of Hwy. 401 to be widened. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has posted a notice indicating a design and environmental study is now complete for the portion of the highway just east of Tilbury (County Road 42) to Merlin Road, about 15 km. There is now a 30-day public review. As in other 401 improvements over the past decade the highway would be widened to six lanes with a concrete median barrier and five new overhead signs among the improvements. Dillon Consulting and Coco Paving were hired. Construction and timeframe are subject to approvals and funding. – 2/22/21

Photo: MTO

Some surprises in transit use here vs other Canadian cities

A few interesting statistics emerge from the Walk Wheel Windsor Active Transportation Master Plan when it comes to transit use in Windsor versus other Canadian cities. Windsor’s population is 210,000, has 112 buses and 14 routes and a ridership is 6.5 million annually. Victoria, with a population of only 84,000, has 260 buses, 58 routes and 25.5 million riders. Up the road, London, with a population of 381,000, has 195 buses, 42 routes and ridership of 24.1 million. Guelph, with 129,000 people, sees 7.3 million riders, has 70 buses and 28 routes. Windsor’s transit services are also currently under review in the Shape Transit Shape Our City master plan with proposals for a major system overhaul. - 2/8/21

Truck terminals sprouting up due to new driver hours compliance

As more truck terminals – temporary and permanent – set up in the city, an enforcement blitz in 2019 found 26 properties in violation of zoning or site approval. The blitz followed complaints of trucks and tractor trailers parked throughout Windsor on sites like unpaved lots or otherwise creating nuisances like dust or lighting issues. A city study on the future of truck terminals says “all 26 property owners received zoning violation orders and three court charges were laid for failing to comply with an order.” Those now “are in abeyance” pending outcome of the study, heading to city council. The study says the city, an obvious major transportation corridor due to its border location, is a growing mecca for terminals in part because of Electronic Logging Device (ELDS). The ELD tracks for mandated driving hours compliance. By June all drivers of federally regulated commercial trucks and buses must use an ELD. – 1/15/21

Easy indoor transfer from Union Station to new Go Bus terminal

Transferring between Toronto’s Union Station and suburban Go Transit buses has never been easier now that a new Go Bus terminal opened Dec. 5. There’s an indoor pedestrian bridge over Bay Street that connects to the terminal from the Scotiabank Arena. The terminal is part of CIBC Square at the northeast corner of Bay St. and Lake Shore Blvd. The terminal features free Wi-Fi. There’s a customer pick-up and drop-off location. Like an airport terminal, passengers will wait in separate waiting areas until the bus is called, rather than waiting on the platform as they did at the old terminal. – 12/18/20

Photo: Go Transit

Yet another expressway would go around - part - of Toronto

There’s highways 401 and 407 to get through Toronto. The province is now proposing a third expressway – Highway 413 - that would go even further north. The idee is to funnel some traffic off north-south Hwy. 400 and direct it west (or vice versa) around Brampton to Hwy. 401. "The GTA West Corridor will help alleviate traffic congestion and improve the movement of people and goods across the province," Ontario transportation minister Caroline Mulroney said. But those expecting a faster way to get to cottage country might have to cool their heels. An array of groups is lining up to oppose the project. Environmental Defence calls it “redundant and unnecessary,” a toll highway only 15 kms north of existing toll road 407, and that “would pave over farm, forests, wetlands and a portion of the Greenbelt.” – 12/2/20

Gordie Howe bridge towers on the rise

The first concrete pour for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge towers took place this month resulting in the beginning of the rise of the two land-based A-shaped towers. “The towers are starting to rise probably even as early as this fall - I think we’ve even had the first initial pour this week,” Les Martin, the bridge’s vice president of engineering, told a question and answer session during the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority’s annual meeting Friday. As the towers go up so too will be the build out of the “back span” from the ground on both sides of the river. And once the towers reach the deck level the span or deck will also build out “incrementally” from each tower until it meets in the middle. “We’re going to build it from the top rather than from lifting sections form the river,” he added. – 11/20/20

Ontario - yours to (safely) discover

Want to know the safest places in Ontario to travel to when it comes to Covid cases? Tamiskaming leads the pack with only 17 cases. A more accessible community like North Bay only has had 46. The first community to break the one-hundred mark is Thunder Bay at 115. Sudbury isn’t doing too bad with having had 124. In southern Ontario your best bet is Huron Perth with 147 cases. You could get a little history by visiting Kingston, home of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald; it has had only 179 cases. Closer to home Sarnia-Lambton has had 369 cases and Chatham-Kent 406. Many Windsorites like to travel to London for the weekend. The Forest City and Middlesex County has had 1120 cases. Care for a visit to the Falls and wine country? Niagara has reported 1383 cases. How about a trip to our country’s capital? Ottawa has had more than 6800 cases – the third most in the province. And you’re probably aware that the hotbed of Covid is the Greater Toronto Area. Halton, which includes Burlington and Oakville, would be your safest community with only 1969 cases. Then Covid numbers jump. York, which includes Markham and Newmarket, has had more than 6500 cases. And then, ominously, a further doubling. Peel region, which includes Brampton and Mississauga, had had over 13,000 cases. And Metropolitan Toronto itself, a whopping 26,300-plus. Please note that these numbers are cumulative cases and the vast majority have been resolved, such as more than 21,800 in Toronto. You’re the traveller, you make the decision. – 10/29/20

Only one local tourist site has signed on to Safe Travels stamp

Only one Windsor-Essex organization has signed on to the Safe Travels Stamp sponsored by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. That’s the local tourist agency, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. And only two in Chatham-Kent: Chatham-Kent John D. Bradley Convention Centre and Travelodge Chatham. The program has been in existence since spring. The stamp (shown) assures travellers that travel organizations “have adopted health and hygiene global standardized protocols – so consumers can experience ‘Safe Travels.’” Any type of tourist establishment is eligible: hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, attractions, short term rentals, car rentals. The guidelines take into account World Health Organizations (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines but is a “living document” that will be updated as new information about Covid-19 comes in. – 9/28/20

YQG won’t have to extend runways for safety reasons

Windsor International Airport - branded YQG for marketing purposes – will not have to be among Canadian airports seeking funding to extend plane overshoot areas at the end of runways for safety reasons. Unless they get government funding many airports may have to charge passengers additional fees for this required work. “We do have our runway and safety areas plus we do have a little additional property on top of that as well,” YQG ops manager Steve Tuffin said. “We did have to invest a little bit of money to change a drainage ditch at the time to comply with one of our runway ends but we did that in house as part of our regular maintenance and fully comply with that right now.” YQG has two runways – one 9000 ft. the other 5300 ft. - 8/13/20