Col­umn: Ma­ley Drive city’s ‘white ele­phant’

The Sudbury Star - - NEWS - MICHAEL VAGNINI GUEST COL­UMN

Fol­low­ing the man­date of my con­stituents and my be­liefs, I was the only one at coun­cil to vote against the Ma­ley ex­ten­sion (12 to 1). Be­cause we live in a democ­racy, I com­mit­ted to do my best to sup­port what the ma­jor­ity de­cided. I re­mem­ber an old friend said, “If you don’t stand for some­thing you stand for noth­ing.”

In­ter­est­ing that I was pres­sured be­hind the scenes to change my vote prior to the coun­cil meet­ing when the project was ap­proved. I do not pre­sume to speak for other coun­cil­lors; how­ever, it is to be noted that I was not made aware of the prime min­is­ter com­ing to Sud­bury un­til shortly be­fore the visit. I was led to be­lieve that the fund­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could only be al­lo­cated to the Ma­ley Drive ex­ten­sion. When a re­porter asked the prime min­is­ter why he would ap­prove money for a ‘con­tentious’ project, he in­di­cated the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was only there to grant the funds and how those funds get used was up to coun­cil.

I de­clared I would not speak out about the project again, but I now feel com­pelled to ex­er­cise my mi­nor­ity right to speak out. With all due re­spect for fel­low coun­cil­lors and city staff, I find the progress to date very dis­turb­ing for sev­eral rea­sons.

Sud­bury is now well into the sec­ond year of the project and a re­view of the ac­com­plish­ments to date is war­ranted from my per­spec­tive.

I do be­lieve the project to be a white ele­phant the peo­ple of Greater Sud­bury will re­gret or per­haps al­ready do. I be­lieve this project is a road to nowhere un­til phase two and three are done, 30 years too late, and we will not see phase two or three built in our life­time.

I am led to be­lieve the es­ti­mated to­tal cost with over­runs will be be­tween $120 mil­lion to $150 mil­lion, far in ex­cess of the ap­proved cost.

The project was stated as be­ing needed to show ‘good faith’ for big news that would be com­ing from the min­ing sec­tor. The only big news from that sec­tor so far has been shrink­age and noth­ing re­lated to need for the project.

The project was stated as be­ing able to cre­ate badly needed trades jobs. From a news re­port stem­ming from a re­cent meet­ing, James Cuddy, an ap­plied re­search de­vel­oper in Cam­brian Col­lege’s ap­plied re­search depart­ment, stated “one just has to look at the now-un­der­way Ma­ley Drive ex­ten­sion project to un­der­stand the over­all labour short­age sit­u­a­tion in the city. While the project is in the con­struc­tion sec­tor, the con­trac­tors work­ing on the project are from out of town and the hun­dreds of jobs cre­ated there are be­ing filled by their peo­ple.”

The over­pass sup­port struc­ture could have been de­signed us­ing lo­cally fab­ri­cated steel beams. Pre-cast con­crete beams were de­signed and im­ported from south­ern On­tario.

The project claimed to up­grade the por­tion of Ma­ley Drive that was voted as the worst road in Sud­bury. This will in fact be in the fi­nal por­tions of the project.

Sud­bury now has a clover-leaf to nowhere and Ma­ley Drive it­self con­tin­ues to dis­in­te­grate.

Most im­por­tantly, while the new clover-leaf has been un­der con­struc­tion, deadly in­ter­sec­tions of mu­nic­i­pal roads and High­way 17 west and other roads in the city con­tinue to claim lives. Money for the clover-leaf alone could have erased the se­vere haz­ards from at least two of those in­ter­sec­tions. Within the same cost en­ve­lope, risk of fa­tal­i­ties on the sec­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal Road 80 im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the clover-leaf could have been ad­dressed.

I truly hope that con­struc­tion per­for­mance and use of the road will, in his­tory, prove me wrong and that those lives were not lost in vain. At this point in time all in­di­ca­tors are con­firm­ing to me, my be­lief that the ma­jor­ity did not choose rightly in ap­prov­ing the Ma­ley Drive ex­ten­sion.

I re­mem­ber read­ing a pa­per when I was in school years ago en­ti­tled Right or Wrong: A Clue to the Mean­ing of the Uni­verse. The main theme was ma­jor­ity is right only when ma­jor­ity does right.

The above col­umn is my per­sonal per­spec­tive only and does not re­flect the opin­ion of my col­leagues and/or any staff at the Greater City of Sud­bury. Michael Vagnini is the city’s Ward 2 coun­cil­lor.

JOHN LAPPA/SUD­BURY STAR

The Ma­ley Drive/Notre Dame in­ter­change in Sud­bury.

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