Boosting Niagara’s Transportation Links and Moving Forward
Greetings to our Chamber Members! As we emerge from a pandemic — and a tough Niagara winter — changes are coming to challenge and strengthen our businesses. In the spirit of that conversation, we invite you to our first Let’s Talk.
We’ll spotlight important issues that may affect local businesses like yours. We also want to know what you think, in a feedback blog for Chamber members only. In each issue, we highlight single themes of concern and opportunity, but definitely not all!
To start, transportation policy in Niagara is something that affects all members — from where we grow our businesses, and link to opportunities with new ones in cost-effective ways — to how people can get places, using public transit across a peninsula that’s often been disconnected.
Recently, Niagara Region has embarked on a Long-Term Economic Development Strategy, which dovetails off Niagara Region’s 2019-22 Strategic Plan. Transportation initiatives for business is part of what they are looking at, through a stakeholder engagement process. Here are two links:
Issues covered in the draft stakeholder survey include employment-land zoning for new industrial business, and affordable residential development, plus general transportation infrastructure.
For many of us, moving our goods in Niagara involves rail, trucking or marine —notably the Seaway and Niagara’s Welland Canal. As many business stakeholders know, near-term logistics needs include facilitating ‘multimodal, or intermodal’ transportation, involving using two-or-more types of connected transport.
This will help get goods to customers in an affordable and timely way, over the next competitive decade.
As part of this, opening up developable industrial employment lands, including along the Welland Canal strip, will be key to sustaining local business, and new business opportunities, for many members across the SNCC group. This issue was not particularly stressed in the initial Regional development strategy stakeholder survey report, but we think it’s important.
(The report also notes a business concern about excessive costly red-tape and burdensome levels of bureaucracy, among other things).
Indeed, we are already making big progress with multimodal, including a new HOPA Ports business hub in Thorold. The Bioveld complex is combining rail, trucking and Seaway assets for new business clients, to expand logistics to other ports, help cargo move, and relieve overburdened GTA transportation networks. Link:
Niagara transportation is a big file, with lots of moving and interconnected pieces.
On another front, we’re also focused on pushing forward the Niagara Mid-Peninsula Highway Corridor, which could alleviate Highway 403/ 406/ QEW congestion pressures, and make south Niagara a more desirable place to invest. It would link Niagara Falls or Fort Erie around Hamilton to connect with Hwy 401 or 407, north of Burlington.
In 2019, a standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities report called for the federal government to support a mid-peninsula highway, to reduce congestion. It also recommended boosting use of the Seaway for transporting cargo. In the meantime, we are concerned that this needed highway transportation-relief project seems to have stalled.
Niagara also has a lot of other exciting transportation assets for business, whose growth should be encouraged. GIO Rail of Welland — which recently acquired Trillium Railway — is among them, with GIO now working on boosting capacity for short-line rail connections across our membership area, with links to primary rail connections.
Public transportation is moving forward, alongside other developments. Niagara Region is set to combine all existing municipal services into a single, integrated transit service for the entire region, although not all municipalities are supportive of the plan. It is hoped a single service will help current and future employees move more seamlessly across our area, to their homes, errands and work sites.
Also in an ongoing initiative, the Province of Ontario has committed to bringing daily GO Train service to Grimsby, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
As you can see, there’s a lot happening in the transportation realm in Niagara that will affect chamber members, with this being an overview only.
Wearing your Chamber member hat, we want to know what you think about where we’re heading with transportation. What should be our priorities, what is missing, and what developments will be especially impactful to your business?
Please e-mail us your thoughts, which we’ll compile in an upcoming Let’s Talk summary accessible to members— you can remain anonymous if you’d’ like.
Until then, we wish you health, happiness and prosperity in 2022 and the years ahead!