Tony Porco, no-nonsense, plain-spoken developer of The Machine Shop and the new Agawa Canyon Tour Train station and skating rink, is no fan of plans to move our downtown bus terminal to 111 Huron Street.
Porco emerged this week as a hostile force to be reckoned with by city officials determined to move the terminal five blocks west, to Sault Transit's existing bus barn/administration complex at Queen and Huron.
"It is a bad spot. I swear to God!" Tony Porco said during a virtual public information session on Wednesday.
"We have security there every night....It's really bad. That whole area, there was mattresses. They got those cleaned out. People walking that thing every night, every day. It's a tough spot to be putting our residents in right now, to save money. I don't even know if you're saving money."
"It's not a safe place and it's just going to add to it even more. And the noise – I just can't imaging 800 people looking out their window in a train, and looking at a terminal. It's bad enough It's bad enough they have maintenance people there."
Porco is predicting traffic logjams if the terminal ends up at 111 Huron Street.
"You're definitely going to clog it up. It's a bottleneck."
"You're on a corner. It's our way in to The Machine Shop. It's a way in from the north and the west to the locks and to the Mill Market."
"I don't believe the place is safe. The government and the city has allowed me to go ahead with the train station, and you guys are right next door to it."
"You're going to have all these buses starting, which is already a noise pollution."
"Now you're going to have more buses."
"I'm not sure how you're going to get those buses out. There's one way in, one way out, according to the site plan."
Porco is concerned that noise and exhaust from all those transit buses won't be what riders of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train have travelled here to see.
"As they sit on the train, all our tourists in the beautiful city of Sault Ste. Marie, they can now expect and view buses – more buses."
"The place has not been cleaned up for years. I know I was asked to buy it at one time, because it wasn't a good place for the buses."
"It's not typical for a new bus terminal to be by a steel mill...And by the International Bridge."
"All the people from Algoma Steel that are working days and nights and afternoons."
"We've basically blocked Queen Street. It's only one way. So they all have to go down Bay Street. There's no other way."
"That's not including any weddings or 800 people getting off a train tour. It's just not the right place for a terminal."
"A historic canal site, our locks, there's got to be a better spot for it."
Porco says the existing terminal location at Queen and Dennis is just fine.
"They can shop. They can go somewhere to get off."
"Here, they can't get off. I guess just getting from bus to bus here. All the bus people, I guess they just get off the bus and go on to the next one and go to a bus stop."
"On Queen they had a place to go: the mall, GFL, shopping."
That's not true of the proposed Huron Street location, Porco insists.
"They have nowhere to go now. It's not close to downtown. It's not safe to walk from there downtown."
"Building something...like that, in that area on our waterfront, really makes no sense to me."
John McDonald from Tulloch Engineering said a traffic study was done.
"There was no concern raised whatsoever. Everything's going to continue operating at an A- and B-level, which is generally no change," McDonald said.
Brent Lamming, the city's director of community services, said the proposed new location offers improved safety and advantages that come from having all major Sault Transit operations under the same roof.
"We value the investment that you have put into the community there. The Machine Shop and the new rink. Everything is excellent. They're all great additional qualities," Lamming said.
Porco responded: "If you really appreciate what we've done there, and what we're going to do there, then we should look at where we're going to put the bus terminal."
A second virtual session is planned for this Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
City officials are hoping to meet with Porco after that to try to alleviate his concerns.