Borderline study

Safer, faster, smarter border crossings – that’s what the province of Ontario is seeking through a technology-driven panel set up by the governments of Canada and Ontario. The panel’s mandate is to explore how technology can be used to enhance the security and speed of traffic flow between Ontario and the United States.

The initiative is part of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy, which proposes Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) along roadways leading to border crossings.

Chief beneficiaries will be the millions of drivers who cross Ontario-U.S. borders each year. Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar says ITS will have a pervasive payoff, benefiting trade, tourism and the economy in general. About $1.4 billion worth of goods crosses the Canada-U.S. border everyday, $900 million of it through Ontario crossings. In 2001, Ontario-U.S. trade by road represented approximately 70 per cent of Canada’s total trade in that category.

The Ontario panel is expected to evaluate how existing technologies can be best harnessed to keep drivers informed of traffic conditions and to better manage traffic during busy travel times. ITS technologies include cameras to monitor traffic, weather and road conditions. Electronic sensors and detectors embedded in the roadway will gauge traffic speed. All of this information will be passed to drivers through real time changeable message signs. Following a competitive bidding process, Delcan Corp. was selected by a joint Transport Canada-Ontario Ministry of Transport evaluation committee to undertake the project.

While the initiative stems from the Let’s get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy, technology developed could be applied at other Ontario border crossings. The Canadian and Ontario governments will equally share the $1.3 million cost of the 18-month project. Federal funding for the project comes from the Border Infrastructure Fund. Regularly updated project information is to be available at

Stakeholders – including members of the public – have been encouraged to get involved in the project – presenting ideas and feedback through e-consultation forms and participation in workshops and open houses.

However, as security is a key aspect of the project, “ideas that contravene evolving security requirements will be non-starters regardless of their effectiveness,” according to the project action plan. Canadian and U.S. agencies responsible for border security will be actively involved in the project. These include: Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Dramatic improvements in safety and personal security are expected to be the most obvious and immediate benefit of the venture. Others include:

? Reduced congestion;

? Time savings and operational efficiencies;

? Reduced fuel consumption and emissions;

? Better customer service and less frustration;

? Fewer collisions and fatalities;

? Seamless information sharing; and,

? Accurate and reliable data

The ITS project includes applications such as advanced systems for traveler information, traffic management, public transport, commercial vehicle operations, emergency response management and vehicle safety. All these applications leverage advanced technologies, such as information processing, communications, and sensing and control.

The federal goernment’s document Intelligent Transportation Systems Plan for Canada: En Route to Intelligent Mobility (1999) sets out the strategy for stimulating the development and deployment of ITS across urban and rural Canada. More information on that plan can be found here.

Its goals are to maximize the use and efficiency of existing infrastructure and to meet future mobility needs more responsibly. The ITS Plan provides leadership and support to advance the application and compatibility of ITS technologies and increase the safety, integration, efficiency and sustainability of Canada’s transportation system.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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