Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment
P.O. Box 20014 , 2211 Brant Street
Burlington, ON, L7P 0A4
www.stophighway.com

May 6, 2005

John Slobodzian
Project Co-ordinator
Provincial and Environmental Planning Office
Ontario Ministry of Transportation
301 St. Paul Street
St. Catharines, Ontario
L2R 7R4

Re:  Niagara to GTA Corridor Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference (Draft)

 

Dear Mr. Slobodzian:

After reviewing the draft Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference, Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) have the following comments for your consideration.

Primary Concerns 

It is premature to move ahead with the Niagara-GTA Corridor Environmental Assessment (EA) Terms of Reference (TOR) prior to the approval of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the proposed Transportation Strategy.  These plans are also intended to address growth and future direction of the Golden Horseshoe to 2031.  We understand that the Transportation study will identify any provincial problems and propose potential long-term strategic solutions within the context of the Growth Plan.  COPE recommends that this TOR process be held in abeyance until these other plans are finalized; to ensure a cohesive approach to transportation planning.

One factor affecting the choice of the Mid Peninsula Highway (MPH) as the supposed solution to the area's transportation problems was the utilization of tolling to bolster the return of a private partner's financial investment.  No mention of tolling or inclusion of a private partner has been indicated in this TOR.  The intention of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Government regarding these two issues must be stated clearly up front to allow consideration of all relevant factors and influences. 

Considering the magnitude of this project, there is a great need for the MTO to work in concert with authorities experienced in the development and operation of other modes of transportation from the commencement of this process.  This will assist in avoiding a bias towards highways; the MTO's area of expertise.

As stated on page 3, "this document ... supercedes the document from May 2003."  This clearly indicates the relationship of this process to the Mid Peninsula Highway process.  The presentation at the Public Information Centres (PIC) included a board stating that the GTA - Niagara corridor is not MPH.  This is not true and misleading to the public.  This process is a continuation to the MPH and should be represented to the public as such. 

 

Specific Comments

There are many improvements to the Niagara-GTA Corridor Draft TOR over the original Mid Pen TOR. We are providing the following suggestions for further improving the document.  These comments are submitted for your consideration at the appropriate time.

 

1. Introduction

 

Paragraph two states:  "the EA process will confirm the transportation problems and opportunities..."  This statement indicates that problems or need has been pre-determined without the appropriate study.  This flaw was a fundamental flaw in the MPH process as well and highlights the need to hold this process in abeyance until the Growth and Transportation Plans are finalized.

1.1  Background

 

The forecasting and planning referred to is based on 20th century assumptions. Sustainable Development is often defined as "meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs". All of us are aware of the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and the evidence that an increasing proportion of greenhouse gas emissions originate in the transportation sector. It is not enough for a corridor to simply provide room for more transportation vehicles of whatever type. It must provide for the type of transportation that produces the least amounts of these emissions, that has the least impact on our natural areas and agricultural lands and on the quality of our air and water. These considerations must take priority over convenience and "business as usual" approaches, including forecasting and planning. 

      1.3.2  Co-ordinated EA Process for MTO Projects 

Document A in the Supporting Documentation of the Draft TOR outlines that the proponent will be guided by the requirements of both the federal and provincial environmental assessments acts and that information is to be provided for CEAA which includes “effects due to climate change”.  The government of Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and put forward the Climate Change Plan for Canada.  The plan includes measures that will slow the growth in transportation GHG emissions; however, achieving these reductions will require “substantial investment in technological innovation and infrastructure, changes in the way goods are moved and changes in the travel behavior of individual Canadians” (page 59, Transport Canada, Straight Ahead – A Vision for Transportation in Canada”). 

Hard data must be supplied that shows how the proposed Niagara /GTA Corridor will comply with Canada’s commitment to reducing its reliance on fossil-fuel burning vehicles.  This would include total CO2 load for each alternative including the construction phase, operating of the equipment of that alternative (Trucks, trains, ships etc) and maintenance of the infrastructure over a 30-year period.  COPE also recommends that the weighing factors include tonnes of CO2 for each alternative as described above.

The first-time, unprecedented smog alert that was declared this winter (February 2005) for the entire GTA/Niagara Peninsula should serve as a wake-up call that air quality and public health must be given priority.   

1.4  Statement of Proponency

The Ministry of Transportation is identified as the sole proponent for this process.  As stated in the draft TOR, the MTO does not have expertise in all possible transportation alternatives.  To effectively address all possible modes of transportation, the proponency should not be limited to the MTO.

2.1  Policy Framework and Other Government Initiatives 

Although various papers, plans and policies have been identified as establishing the policy framework for this TOR, there are glaring omissions that should be part of this process including:

  • The Niagara Escarpment Plan
  • The Growth Plan
  • The Golden Horseshoe Transportation Strategy
  • The Kyoto Protocol
  • The Parkway Belt West Plan

2.3. Transportation Problems and Opportunities

    Page 9:  The Greenbelt Plan is cited as permitting "new or improved transportation infrastructure..."  No mention of what is discouraged is mentioned which gives the appearance of a bias towards infrastructure.

     Page 11:  The supposed potential for the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport was a factor in the MPH process and continues to be an influencing factor in this new process.  It is cited as a "future economic growth centre and major development area in the region."  However the potential is questionable.  The document states that the airport handled 900,000 passengers in 2001 despite the drop to 700,000 last year. Statistics Canada recently reported that aircraft movements at Hamilton's airport fell 13% last year from 111,170 flights in 2001 to 82,251 flights in 2004.  This is the fourth straight year of decline; leaving Mount Hope as the twentieth most active Canadian airport.  The impact of the Jetsgo shutdown earlier this year is NOT reflected in these figures.  (The report is available at:  www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/Report/TP577/tp577.htm.) 

     Since current data is being utilized in this TOR process, information regarding the Hamilton Airport must be revised and the forecasts adjusted to reflect reality. 

Page 12:  Growing Congestion.  The concern for congestion on the 403 and QEW in Hamilton is used to demonstrate a supposed problem.  It is stated that these highways are the only major freeways in the area.  This statement sounds like a problem has been identified prior to the commencement of the process and the need for another highway has already been determined.  This example should be removed.  It is premature and lacks balance; it does not recognize that there are no other transit choices available in the area.

Page 19 “Trade related goods movement BY TRUCK is expected to grow along this trade corridor by 3% to 6% per annum between 2001 and 2031 creating significant strain on the existing transportation network.”  This statement appears to be biased as it assumes trucks to be the primary mode of transportation in the future. The words “by truck” should be removed.

The Draft states: “Rail, marine, air, and truck providers will be consulted during the EA to determine future rail trends and planning initiatives” (2.3. page 11), but it will do so in Phase II of the EA.  It is imperative that rail, air and marine providers play a significant role in EA Process Phase I “Identify & Assess Alternatives to the Undertaking” (Exhibit 4.1a).

      2.4. Summary of the Purpose of the Undertaking

“The specific need for any proposed undertaking(s) and a description of the proposed undertaking(s) will be developed during the initial phases of the EA study.” The word "developed" indicates that a need WILL BE identified.  The word "determined" should be used indicating that the process is new and the outcome not pre-determined.  Also, one of the biggest problems with the original MPH was that no need was actually determined.

4. Description and Statement of Rationale for Alternatives

Regarding phase I of the EA, we recommend that the transportation demands be split into three groups; one addressing transportation needs of commuters; one addressing the needs of the freight transportation industry; and a third addressing the needs in support of tourism.  There are several factors supporting this approach:

  • The best transportation alternative may differ between groups.
  • A solution to the transportation needs of one group may alleviate the needs of other groups.
  • It facilitates a more innovative process and the opportunity to identify numerous solutions that work in concert, rather than attempting to solve all issues with one solution. 
  • The weight and importance assigned to the needs of each category, when selecting solutions, will be evident.

4.2 Assessment of Alternatives to the Undertaking

The criteria for the “assessment of alternatives to the undertaking” are transportation, economy and environment.  The weight assigned to each needs to be determined with public input (including COPE) and reflect societal goals, not just industrial goals.  Our past transportation choices have taken an increasing toll on our environment and health;  this reality must be a factor in this process and be given appropriated standing.  Business as usual is not acceptable.

4.3 Selection of the Preferred Alternative(s) to the Undertaking

We are concerned that the Ministry of Transportation, at the end of EA Phase I, is prepared to “walk away” from any transportation alternative falling outside its mandate.  It is expected that the MTO be familiar with all possible transportation alternatives and include authorities who have the appropriate expertise from the commencement of the process.  This will allow for an unbiased assessment of the merits of each option.  To facilitate this approach:

  • Identify, at the beginning of EA Phase I, those transportation alternatives outside the MTO's mandate and area of expertise.
  •   Inform the relevant private sector and/or Government Ministry (Federal or Provincial), prior to the commencement of the process to allow for their assistance in the preparation of and approval of any Phase II EA plans.  Also, ensure that during the EA, the efficiency of the non-MTO process be on par with studies completed for transportation alternatives within the MTO’s mandate.

This section highlights the need for the MTO to co-ordinate their efforts with other authorities to ensure a comprehensive approach to infrastructure planning in the area.

5.1 Process for Generating Study Area

MTO is focusing too narrowly on the Niagara Peninsula, ignoring other parts of the province.  The study area should be expanded to South Western Ontario, including Waterloo-Wellington, London and Windsor, as well as Lakes Ontario and Erie.  There are several factors supporting this expansion:

  • The document“ Places to Grow” indicates considerable population growth in Waterloo-Wellington. 
  • Windsor is home to the busiest land border crossing in Canada.
  • As recently reported by Statistics Canada, although the Waterloo and London airports both recorded a drop in the number of annual flights, both airports are busier that the Hamilton airport.
  • As a major artery, Highway 401's existing and future capacity deserve study and consideration.
  • If marine transportation options (i.e. the Rochester Ferry) are to be considered, Lakes Ontario and Erie must be included.
  • CN's major rail corridor between Windsor / Sarnia and Montreal already exists and deserves consideration in an expanded future role.
5.5  Evaluation of Alternative Methods

The Reasoned Argument (Trade-off) Method is the primary evaluation method, yet it is the most open to interpretation, vague in how it will be applied and lends itself to the most abuse. We recommend that this be the secondary method and the Arithmetic Evaluation be the primary evaluation method.

The last item in the Arithmetic Evaluation Component (Table 5.2) is “Cost.”  The determination of cost for the MPH was narrowly defined and highly flawed.  Cost in this process must address all costs associated with an alternative. For example:

  • How will the cost of a new highway, in terms of construction costs, size of right of way and maintenance, compare to that of a new railway?

  • How much of the cost can be saved by using existing infrastructure?
  • Equalization equation to account for all government subsidies.
  • Cost to taxpayer at federal, provincial and municipal level for servicing and maintenance of option.
  • Cost to counteract effects of transportation choice (i.e.:  water filtration, health care cost).
  • Impact of including a private partner.
  • Impact on usage and cost considering the ever increasing price of gas / oil. 
  • Impact on usage and cost if tolling is a possibility.

    Monitoring Strategy

The description of who will monitor the process and how progress will be monitored is vague.  We recommend that a group, including COPE, be created to participate in the monitoring function.

 

7.2 Public Information Centres and Follow-up Activities

Additional PIC’s are needed for Phase II:  one for the “Define the Study Area” and another for the Criteria and Weightings portion.

“The PICs will be arranged as drop-in centres (open house format) to allow the public to see results, exchange information, and ask one-on-one questions of the Project Team. The PICs serve an important function in providing for two-way communications on specific local conditions, issues and concerns regarding the study.” We recommend that the format be altered to allow a presentation by the MTO of important points and a Question and Answer session.  This would ensure all in attendance are aware of concerns and suggestions of others.  It also provides for a better opportunity for participants to understand and appreciate the views of others.  The current format ensures a one-way direction of communication from the MTO to the participants.  Participants comments will be fractured, lacking the insight that would be present with informed, open discussion.

7.6 Municipal consult

The only regions / municipalities listed as stakeholders are Niagara, Hamilton and Halton.  To ensure a fresh perspective on the process and provide balance and legitimacy to the Executive Municipal Advisory Group, additional stakeholders must be included.  With the expansion of the study area, as suggested above, this could include Waterloo-Wellington as well as other regions from South Western Ontario. 

 

 

Conclusion

    On a positive note we would like to add that commitment to an "un-scoped EA" and to considering all alternatives to resolve transportation problems is encouraging.  The inclusion of the "do nothing" option and use of current data is also encouraging.  We are pleased that the current government and the MTO recognize the need to revisit the transportation needs of the area and hope that the foresight and the will exist to protect the Niagara Escarpment from the destruction which more highways will cause.

    Sincerely,

    Susan McMaster and David Bailey
    Co-Chairs
    Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment

    Cc: 
    The Honourable Dalton McGuinty, Premier
    The Honourable Harinder Takhar, Minister of Transportation
    The Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of the Environment
    The Honourable David Caplan,
    Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal
    Ted McMeekin, MPP, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot
    Mayor Robert MacIsaac, City of Burlington
    Joyce Salvoline, Halton Regional Chair
    John Taylor, Councillor, City of Burlington
    Mayor Larry DiIanni, City of Hamilton
    Margaret McCarthy, Councillor, City of Hamilton
    David Braden, Councillor, City of Hamilton
    Peter Partington, Niagara Regional Chair
    Tom Eichenbaum, City of Burlington
    Marion Plaunt, Senior Strategic Advisor, Niagara Escarpment Commission
    Bradley Shaw, Executive Director, CONE

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