Via the North Shore

A reply to E. Wharton Shaw's article on the Trans-Canada Highway by an advocate of the Lake Superior route

WILLIAM WEBSTER May 15 1931

Via the North Shore

A reply to E. Wharton Shaw's article on the Trans-Canada Highway by an advocate of the Lake Superior route

WILLIAM WEBSTER May 15 1931

Via the North Shore

WILLIAM WEBSTER

A reply to E. Wharton Shaw's article on the Trans-Canada Highway by an advocate of the Lake Superior route

THERE is a controversy respecting the proposed route of the Trans-Canada Highway—that portion lying between North Bay and the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur at the Canadian head of the lakes. E. Wharton Shaw, in his article in MacLean’s, “A Compromise Route for the Trans-Canada Highway,” makes that quite clear.

This is a matter in which every Canadian citizen can rightly interest himself, though I sincerely doubt the timeliness of a public exposition of the controversy and the wisdom of taking it into the court of unrestricted public opinion.

When this controversy is settled, as it will be in due course, it will be settled by the people resident within the affected area, not by the residents of Vancouver, York Factory or Halifax, much as they are indirectly interested in it and much as their suggestions may be valued.

A similar controversy existed respecting the route of that portion of the Trans-Canada Highway lying between the Canadian lakehead and Kenora. This

controversy was settled without undue ceremony on September 3 of last year, not in a court of provincial public opinion but in a conference held in the City of Fort William which was attended by representatives of the various communities within the affected area.

So much for the controversy and method of settlement.

In the Beginning

COME eighteen years rimto by ^ ago, when the twin

cities of Fort William and Port Arthur had no highway outlet whatever, and the Trans-Canada Highway was but a vision, a formal request was made to the Federal Government for the construction of a highway along the shore of Lake Superior from Fort William to Sault Ste. Marie, for the purpose of linking up the eastern and western sections of Ontario.

The Federal Government at that time had no TransCanada Highway policy, but intimation was given that it might adopt the policy of granting to the Ontario Government a substantial subsidy toward the construction of this and other trunk highways.

It is evident then that the quest for a highway following the north shore of Lake Superior is not new. Nor is the present policy of the Federal Government new, in offering financial assistance toward its construction.

It is equally true that the Ontario Government had no definite policy respecting the construction of this link in the Trans-Canada Highway; at least there has been no announcement of such a policy. Notwithstanding this, the Ontario Government proceeded to construct parts of the Lake Shore Highway; from Sault Ste. Marie to Batchawana at the east end of Lake Superior, and Port Arthur to Nipigoft at the west end.

At the same time, the Ferguson Highway was being built from North Bay to Cochrane in Northeastern Ontario. Later this was extended west to Hearst.

Until this time it did not appear that the Lake Shore route had any competitor as a link in the Trans-Canada Highway. But, with projection of the Ferguson Highway west to Hearst, it became evident that a route controversy was in the making.

The Competitive Routes

'V/TR. SHAW designates the competitive routes—that 1V1 through Cochrane as the Northern route and that through Sault Ste. Marie as the Southern route. In a sense this is correct though his definition lacks distinction.

Would it not be more descriptive and lead to a better understanding of the main difference between those routes if the route through Cochrane is defined as the Inland route and that through Sault Ste. Marie as the Lake Shore route? I think it would, and for the purpose of this article I adopt the latter definition.

Both routes have common termini—North Bay in the East and Fort William-Port Arthur in the West. The Inland route, starting at North Bay, follows the Ferguson Highway to Cochrane, which is 180 miles by direct line North of Sudbury. From Cochrane it runs West through Hearst and continues West, roughly following the Canadian National transcontinental railway line. Upon rounding the north end of Long Lac, it drops down to the village of Nipigon and uses the existing highway from Nipigon to the twin cities.

The Lake Shore route, starting at North Bay, proceeds through Sturgeon Falls to Sudbury; follows the Soo-Sudbury highway to Sault Ste. Marie, proceeding northwesterly to the village of Nipigon, roughly following the north shore of Lake Superior, and on to the twin cities.

Mr. Shaw suggests settlement of this route controversy by the time-honored method of compromise, but fails to implement the suggestion.

Compromise implies a settlement of differences by mutual concession, each party to the difference conceding as nearly as may be an equal proportion of its assumed right.

Reference to the map which accompanied Mr. Shaw’s writing will show a complete elimination of the Lake Shore route from Sault Ste. Marie to Nipigon. Not a mile of it remains. Advocates of the Lake Shore route are asked to make a 100 per cent concession of their assumed right. While the advocates of the Inland route make no concession whatever, for the proposed compromise route is to all practical intent the old Inland route moved a few miles south.

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This is indeed a strangely new type of compromise, wherein one party loses all and the other party gains nothing.

Clearly, the suggested compromise route, viewed impartially and as a contribution to the settlement of the route controversy, does not justify much hope.

In an effort to make statistical comparison of the merits or otherwise of the two competitive routes, Mr. Shaw invades the field of theoretical mathematics, the processes of which are always difficult to follow and the results not always convincing. Mr. Shaw is fair enough to admit that, while he has definite knowledge of'the Inland route, he has no such knowledge of the Lake Shore route.

I wish to take issue with Mr. Shaw and openly question the soundness of some of his deductions. In doing so, I will deal only with such comparisons as have been instituted by him. There are very many other comparisons which might be made but which have been overlooked.

A Matter of Distances

TXISTANCES are the first order of comparison and can be dealt with only in a general way, since highway surveys are not available for either route. Distance is of course important.

I must first of all correct a serious discrepancy in Mr. Shaw’s mileage figures relating to the Lake Shore Highway. He gives the total distance on the lake shore from Sault Ste. Marie to Nipigon as 425 miles*. He agrees that seventy-four miles of this distance are already built. He follows with a statement that 566 miles of this distance remain to be built. Obviously, this figure should have read 351 miles. Unfortunately, many of Mr. Shaw’s subsequent deductions of cost and what not are based upon this error. I refer to it here because that figure is vital to a later discussion of costs.

I would further correct the misstatement that the advocates of the Lake Shore route demand that it follow closely the shore line of Lake Superior. It was never intended that this highway should follow the shore line assiduously. Engineering expediency will in many instances dictate its location away from the lake shore.

As previously stated, mileage computations are largely conjectural, and for that reason it is futile to attempt a valuation of competitive distances by mathematical process.

Comparison of distances, to be of any practical value, must be correlated to definite objectives. For instance, to say that the distance between Nipigon and Hearst is X miles is a vacuous statement and meaningless because nothing is said about objectives. A highway is something more than just a ribbon between two points.

Consider for a moment the Inland route and its terminal objectives. Nipigon Ls its Western terminal, for there it makes contact with the Western Canadian highway system. North Bay is its Eastern terminal, the end of the Ferguson Highway, for there it makes contact with the Eastern Canadian highway system. Note the distance from Nipigon to North Bay; note also that throughout this distance no contact has or can be made with the.

* Mr. Shaw gave the total distance of the North Shore route as 5(36 miles. He said: “. . . it is fairly certain that the figure of 425 miles taken as the distance from the Soo to Nipigon is too low.”— Editor.

highway systems of the United States.

Now, take the Lake Shore route. Again Nipigon is the Western terminal. Sault Ste. Marie is its Eastern terminal, for there it makes contact with the SooSudbury highway and the Eastern highway system. Note the distance from Nipigon to Sault Ste. Marie; note also that at Sault Ste. Marie contact is made with a United States highway system. Surely the latter is a fact that should be considered.

The Question of Cost

COST next claims attention. This, too, is important, but not all important. Cost must be considered in relation to the values which it creates. In the matter of highways, maintenance cost is more important than construction cost. The cost of construction terminates, but the cost of maintenance goes on for ever.

To put the Trans-Canada Highway on the bargain block would be a colossal blunder. This will not be done. It is not necessary.

Much harm has been wrought by the idle vaporings of Tom, Dick and Harry, who have variously estimated the cost of this project at from $50,000,000 to $200,000,000. This is a lot of money for those boys to be playing with. I am going to leave them out of the reckoning.

Taking first the Inland route, the only cost figure I have available is Mr. Shaw’s estimate of $20,000 per mile. Since he has gone over every foot of this route, I take it that his estimate is dependable. His total estimated cost for the Inland route is $10,140,000, including bridges.

Now I take the Lake Shore route for which actual construction figures are available. Last year fifteen miles of lake shore highway were constructed between Rossport and Schreiber, and motor cars have sinefe been driven over it. The actual cost of this fifteen miles was $105,000. Figure it out and you have the answer; $7,000 per mile. If this figure is typical the total cost of completing the 351 miles of the Lake Shore route which remain to be built will be $2,457,000, exclusive of bridges.

Those figures show a mileage construction saving of $13,000 per mile in favor of the Lake Shore route, f

The matter of bridges on the Lake Shore route remains to be considered, for bridges are necessary to both routés. What they will cost, no one knows. To attempt to estimate their cost would be sheer idleness. However, the Lake Shore route is in the happy position of having a gross mileage construction saving surplus of $7,683,000. This ought to be sufficient to provide the necessary bridges—built of Aberdeen granite if so desired—and still leave a surplus.

The result of this comparison is not startling—not to those who have made serious study of the project. Modern equipment and modern methods of highway construction are more than equal to any obstacle which may be encountered on the lake shore.

There remains to be considered the cost of maintenance. At the head of the lakes there are roads corresponding to both types herein considered, lake shore or rock-bottomed roads, and inland or clay bottomed; the latter in many cases, practically bottomless roads. Maintenance costs are available/but the advantages of rock bottom are obvious.

Suitability or Settlement

SUITABILITY for settlement is the next point in Mr. Shaw’s comparison. He makes his award—five per cent for

tMr. Shaw’s estimate of costs of $20,000 a mile on the Inland route included bridges, therefore this deduction is in error.—Editor.

the Lake Shore route and eighty per cent for the Inland route. The estimate of five per cent is based upon admitted lack of knowledge, that of eighty per cent on results attained along the Ferguson Highway which traverses a comparatively well populated area. Those deductions may be correct, but, I submit, they are irrelevant to the present discussion. The Trans-Canada Highway is a trunk highway. In due course settlement roads will come into being as feeders to the trunk highway.

For years the territory between Nipigon and Hearst in the North, between Nipigon and Sault Ste. Marie in the South, has been served by three lines of railway running from East to West. Have those railways brought about any marked degree of settlement in that territory? They have not. Is it reasonable that a highway will induce settlement where railways have failed? I do not think so.

Along both routes there undoubtedly exists land suitable for settlement, but the time for its settlement is still in the distant future. To induce settlement in that territory at the present time and under present conditions would be an act of doubtful humanity. Settlements cannot properly exist without contiguous markets. In Ontario there is no shortage of arable land within reasonable distance of populated arcas and markets, nor can there be for generations to come.

Tourist Attraction

I CONSIDER the attraction of tourists to the Trans-Canada Highway as one of the most important features. Mr. Shaw, on the contrary, thinks it can well be left out when choosing the route.

Building the highway is one thing; paying for it is another. And while this highway is to be built essentially for the use and enjoyment of our own Canadian people, it should be made as attractive as possible to the -people of the United States. Our cousins to the South are willing, even anxious, to help us pay for it.

The gasoline tax is the chief source of revenue from highway traffic. Some things the American visitor can bring with him to the exclusion of purchase in Ontario but gasoline is not one of them.

If this highway is located on the North shore, our American visitors will help to pay for it by the gasoline route at the rate of three to five dollars per car. Many of them will also require fishing licenses, for the North shore is a world-famous fishing ground. Revenue from this source is $10.50 per individual license for the Nipigon River, and $5.50 per license for other waters.

With most tourists, time is an essential factor. The Lake Shore route, being approximately 485 miles from the lake head to Sault Ste. Marie, will furnish two days of comfortable, leisurely and interesting motoring. Wherea°, on the Inland route, this time will be extended by at least one day, and an extra day spent in repetition of the day previous is decidedly not a tourist attraction.

Mr. Shaw admits that lake shore scenery excels anything on this continent East of the Rocky Mountains. This statement Í3 so often made that it must be well merited. He promptly forgets his tribute to the lake shore and surprises with a second statement that scenery in the clay belt is on a parity with that of the lake shore.

Without question or equivocation, the Lake Shore route stands pre-eminent in the matter of scenery, and scenery is not the least important in the scale of tourist attractions.

The North shore of Lake Superior is comparatively free from annoyance of mosquitos and other insect pests. Those who have lingered for a summer day in bush hinterland know how unattractive those insect pests can be.

Tourist business, like any other, must

be attracted—usually by advertising, j Every intelligent man, woman and child on this continent is familiar with the name of Lake Superior and longs to make its acquaintance. Thus, old Lake Superior himself will be the greatest single factor in advertising the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, and he charges nothing for this service.

Letters on file from unsolicited sources are emphatic in their insistence for a lake shore highway. A university professor advises me that he is preparing a treatise on the scenic grandeur of the North shore of Lake Superior and the possibility of its exploitation or development as a national asset. He laconically remarks that no one has asked him to do this, that possibly no one will read it when it is prepared, but the pleasure and benefit derived from his exploration of the North shore during the past three summers and to which he looks forward this summer, will be a sufficient reward.

I take it for granted that patronage of the Trans-Canada Highway by United States citizens is desirable, if for no other reason than that of revenue.

The Lake Shore route invites United States patronage by its accessibility through Fort William-Port Arthur at the West end, and through Sault Ste. Marie at the East end.

The Inland route, on the other hand, has no Eastern point of contact within reasonable distance of the highway systems of the United States.

Political Expediency

MY ONLY justification for mentioning political expediency is the fact that Mr. Shaw, I think with undue emphasis, incorporated it in his treatment of the route controversy as an essential factor in solution. Frankly, I approach the suggestion in fear and trembling. As I hope and strive for a solution which may be acceptable to all parties, let me plead for a total elimination of everything which savors of political machination.

Suffice it to state that an amicable settlement of the controversy respecting the route of the Trans-Canada Highway between Fort William-Port Arthur and Kenora was accomplished without resort to measures which by any stretch of imagination could be included in the category of political expediency.

I cannot imagine a process which would more completely retard progress toward a solution of this controversy than that of political interference.

To sum up, I make no pretense of nonpartizanship. It would avail me nothing. As a resident of Fort William I am assured of the benefits to be derived from location on the Trans-Canada Highway, no matter which of the two routes may be selected.

The route controversy is a local affair, but the Trans-Canada Highway is a national project. Local interests are involved, but they must not be enlarged to take precedence over national interests.

The choice of a route involves more than the mere gratification of local ambitions. Rightly chosen, this highway will prove to be a national asset; otherwise it will become a national liability.

As matters stand at the moment, there is a highway from North Bay to Sault Ste. Marie. There is also a highway from North Bay to Hearst. Assume that a lake shore highway is constructed from Sault Ste. Marie to Nipigon. From Hearst there is now a good road leading South for a distance of sixteen miles. Extend this road to meet the lake shore highway at Michipicoten, or between Michipicoten and Franz. This will give a fairly complete highway system and one which should meet all reasonable demands of the advocates of both routes.

Let me examine the benefits which may be derived from the foregoing highway system.

What are the benefits hoped for by residents of the Cochrane district? I can only assume:

A highway outlet to the West.

Agricultural development of claybelt areas.

An increased share of tourist patronage.

To what extent are those benefits afforded by the foregoing highway system? The Western outlet is provided, and a Southern outlet is thrown in for good measure. It is a universally recognized fact that motorists dislike having to make a return journey on the same highway which led them forward. They prefer a loop highway circuit. This highway system gives the Cochrane district two loop highway circuits: one from North Bay, advancing by the Ferguson Highway and returning by the Soo-Sudbury Highway to North Bay; the other from Sault Ste. Marie through Michipicoten to Hearst, following the Ferguson Highway to North Bay and returning by the SooSudbury Highway to Sault Ste. Marie. Surely increase of tourist patronage would accrue to the district within those loop highway circuits. Within those loops and contiguous to the highways of this system, there is ample scope for agricultural development.

I have not overlooked the fact that Chapleau is on the map and waiting for a highway outlet. Here, again, I rely upon my mentor, Mr. Shaw, who states that there is a road leading from Chapleau for a distance of twenty miles south in the direction of Dean Lake on the SooSudbury Highway, that there is also a road leading from Dean Lake for a distance of sixty miles North toward Chapleau, leaving only thirty-five miles

of road to be constructed in order to give Chapleau an outlet to the Soo-Sudbury Highway.

Frequent reference has been made to the fact that there is no highway route controversy West of the lake head. To those interested in the solution of the present controversy, I commend a study of the method by which this happy result was achieved.

Experience, if it teaches anything, points to the only way through which lies hope of solution, which is by conference of directly interested parties resident within the affected area.

The controversy which until last September existed in the area west of Fort William-Port Arthur was identical with the present controversy in every respect save that of geographic setting.

Advocates of the Lake Shore route are a unit in their desire to have such a conference. Advocates of the Inland route, according to latest information emanating from that source, while they have a majority in favor of a conference, are not yet unanimous in favor of it.

If our governments are impatient of delay and anxious to begin roadbuilding, they have ample opportunity in the Trans-Canada Highway West of Fort William-Port Arthur. In that direction there is no cause for delay.

I feel certain that if the advocates of the Lake Shore and Inland routes will but meet in friendly conference, their differences can be ironed out and a reasonable solution can be found.

Until then, I take leave of the alleged “Compromise Route.”