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The original plan for the “Connecting Link” was supposed to be a 10-year project, said Timmins CAO Dave Landers. Feb. 5/20 (Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

Talks over the efficiency of the City of Timmins’ Connecting Link project are stirring after council passed the city’s 2020 budget Tuesday evening.

This phase of an over 15-year endeavour will involve construction between Mattagami and Theriault Boulevards along Algonquin Boulevard and will cost around $6.5 million, of which the city will pay $3.5 million out of its budget.

The rest will be paid by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, as part of its bi-annual grant cycle.

But Timmins Mayor George Pirie says that cycle is prolonging the construction process by only allowing the city to tackle small chunks of the road at a time.

"This is the worst possible way to approach this project," Pirie said. "Together, it’s, ultimately, a $100 million project. And $3 million, we’re just paying interest on it. It’s absolutely — over the 15 years or 17 years, as long as it’s been going on — the worst possible business way to do this."

Not built for large trucks

(Mayor George Pirie said the weight of large industrial trucks adds undue stress to the roads and extra costs. Feb. 5/20 Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

Pirie added that over the time it takes to work on the road, large industrial trucks tumble over infrastructure built for much smaller vehicles. The stress on the concrete can set the project back and end up costing the city more money.

The mayor highlighted the need for an industrial service road away from the city, which he said would be both an economic benefit to the area and take the pressure off city streets.

Timmins’ chief administrative officer, Dave Landers, said the city has spoken with Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and Parliamentary Assistant Vijay Thanigasalam about granting more money to Timmins to speed up the construction process.

"If we were to tackle a larger part of the downtown area, and we were looking at a $10 million grant, we could put out a larger chunk of work all at once," Landers said. "We could make the dollars go much further and we could be much less disruptive on residents and on industry."

More money, fewer problems

(Mayor Pirie says the more money the province can give the city for the ‘Connecting Link,’ the less impact on drivers and businesses. Feb. 5/20 Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

A larger grant could reduce five years' worth of construction into one year if the city were able to pay enough labour to do it explains Landers. That’s assuming a regular contribution from the government, which the CAO said is not guaranteed every two years.

Instead, Landers says treating the "Connecting Link," which spans over 21 kilometres across the city, as a larger multi-year project in the province’s eyes would help speed up the process, give contractors more job stability and increase the bidding value of the contract.

Meanwhile, Mayor Pirie said as the city works on each chunk of road, it does damage to local business.

"It’s going to impact every business on this corridor ... people will change their buying habits," said Pirie. "It’s a huge impact to the city that’s got to be well thought out and hopefully with the full partnership of the businesses, large industrial users and the government. We made our point very strongly and strenuously to the government last week, so hopefully they’re listening."