Petawawa mayor warns loss of rail line could be devastating to county 0
The town has become one of the first municipalities to pass a major resolution calling for the federal and provincial governments to save the Canadian Pacific rail line.
Council ratified its support this week for a joint resolution of all Eastern Ontario municipalities calling on the rail to be maintained through the commitment of federal and provincial funding.
"The loss of rail service from Smiths Falls to Sudbury would represent a devastating eco-nomic impact to an area that has been severely impacted by the current economic recession and requires improvements to all transportation infrastructure to compete on a level playing field for community sustainability," Mayor Bob Sweet said, reading out the motion.
The resolution comes less than a week after mayors from 39 municipalities along the Canadian Pacific Railway line met in Petawawa to discuss strategies for keeping the trains rolling. The tracks' owners, Rail America Inc. announced the termination of its lease with Ottawa Valley Railway of the Canadian Pacific Railway-owned line between Smiths Falls and Sudbury, a distance of about 483 kilometres.
If no interest is expressed by April 5, Canadian Pacific will offer it to the three levels of government. The corporation will discontinue its operations and abandon the line if no agreement can be reached.
Mayor Sweet told council there was scope for the municipalities to lobby Ottawa through the All Party Rail Caucus Parliamentary Group, which oversees matters of Canada's railways. He also mentioned the Canada-Ontario Provincial-Territorial Base Fund, which is prepared to provide $175 million for the repair of road or rail infrastructure.
He again reiterated that the lower tier cannot possibly take on financial responsibility for the rail line.
"This is a federal and provincial issue and should not rest on the shoulders of the local taxpayers," said Mayor Sweet.
European companies that deal in the production of pulp for renewal energy have expressed interest in the Ottawa Valley and its long standing timber industries, he explained. One of the questions they've asked is if the region has a reliable transportation network that includes rail.
"This is disturbing that a major link could be taken out," he concluded.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer reporter