The Mid-Peninsula Highway and COPE

Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) is a group of citizens based in Burlington, Ontario. Since our founding a few short months ago, we have grown to over 1000 members, and more concerned citizens and voters are joining us every day. We are a diverse group from many towns and cities including: Hamilton, Welland, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Flamborough, Waterdown, Oakville, Wellandport, Thorold and Burlington. We live in many areas - some of us close to the planned route of the highway - some not. Regardless of where we live, we have some concerns in common. Foremost among these is protection of the Niagara Escarpment from the massive highway project known as the Mid-Peninsula Highway (MPH).

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) believes they have completed the "Needs Assessment" phase of the Mid-Peninsula Highway project; they are currently completing the terms of reference for the Environmental Assessment portion of the process. They intend to submit the terms of reference to the Minister of the Environment for approval in March 2003. It is our position (one we share with many groups, individuals, and municipalities) that the Needs Assessment is biased, flawed, incomplete, and based on shaky logic. Nonetheless, MTO appears committed to proceed.

The MTO has chosen to disregard many of the comments made by the public and others at the PIC Meetings which clearly stated that the voters of this province want other modes of transportation considered FIRST and as an integral part of any new transportation strategies. Instead, they continue to plow ahead and intend to 'scope' the environmental assessment such that it ONLY considers highway route options and does not include other transportation modes such as rail and transit.

The planned highway [see map] is over 130 kilometres long, running from Fort Erie or Niagara to Burlington, Hamilton or Milton. It will cut through uncounted farms, houses, businesses, wetlands, streams and forests. In the Burlington area, the road is slated to cut the Escarpment diagonally, through valuable green space that the City of Burlington has preserved since time immemorial. The option to divert the road to highway 401 would devastate countless wetlands including the ever-diminishing Beverly Swamp. In the Niagara region, the highway will further destroy the remaining Carolinian Forest.

In our view, the MTO has failed to justify the need for this highway, and is proceeding based on many invalid assumptions regarding potential user demand, coming changes and improvements to other major arteries in the area that will ease traffic pressure, the adequacy of other modes of transport, future transit utilization by commuters, and many other factors.
Also deeply disturbing to our membership has been MTO's apparent disregard for environmental issues during the process to date: Air quality, noise, light pollution, water pollution from runoff, disrupted or destroyed wildlife corridors and habitat, damage to wetlands and significant forest areas, encouragement of car usage rather than transit, Government dollars taken out of transit improvements to pay for roads, and urban sprawl to name but a few.

COPE is fighting for transportation solutions that address not just the narrow needs of one small region of Ontario (Niagara in the current case) but also incorporate the broader needs and goals of the province, the country, and the people; and do so in cleaner, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly ways. These solutions need not only involve MTO's usual strategy of paving everything in sight - they may also involve rail, transit, and improvements to existing infrastructure.

COPE believes it is not unreasonable to expect our governments to listen to their citizens. It is also not unreasonable for us to expect our government to spend our tax dollars wisely, and with one eye on the future rather than the past.

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The COPE website was updated October 30, 2012
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