Fourth route added to highway proposal
Group opposing project hands out surgical masks at public meeting

02/07/03 Dennis Smith - The Burlington Post

Shifts in mid-peninsula highway planning are angering critics who say they can't keep up to speed.

An additional connection option and possible usage as a truck route are new developments for the proposed highway from Niagara to Hamilton/Halton.

Expanded transit, railways and roadways are all required to meet projected Golden Horseshoe growth of 2.5 million people in 20 years, information meeting participants were told Tuesday evening.

"Growth in population will be so profound that any subset of these will be incapable of addressing long-term transportation needs and the long-term economic prosperity of the province," said Paul Hudspith, a Ministry of Transportation consultant. "We need to proceed now with mid-peninsula planning."

He said management of transportation systems is also needed to meet trade and transportation growth, plus increased congestion expected for the area.

At Tuesday's meeting it was confirmed a fourth alternative -- connecting with Hwy. 6 -- has been added to the needs assessment. This connection would require widening of Hwy. 6 and Hwy 403. This alternative was previously considered awkward, because it's less direct and connects to a very busy highway, a ministry information officer said "The City of Burlington asked to put it back in," said Will MacKenzie.

The proposed mid-peninsula highway runs to Hamilton's airport at Mount Hope, with the route alternatives extending from there. The three other choices include connecting the road to an expanded Hwy. 403 on Hamilton Mountain, Hwy. 401 west of Milton and Hwy. 407 near Walker's Line.

Lack of response time for highway planning phases was a major concern at this week's meeting at Burlington Holiday Inn.

More time was demanded for the environment assessment terms of reference, which determines how to examine the route or its alternatives. Currently, the public has until March 17 to respond to the draft document and approximately April 30 to reply to the formal terms of reference.

These complex documents require more time for meaningful responses and public consultation, said Burlington councillor John Taylor.

Taylor noted it's an important phase. "If someone comes up with a great idea, it could not be considered because it's not within the terms of reference." he noted.

Burlington's MPP said he'll seek an April 30 response deadline for the draft terms of reference. And there would be another 30 days afterwards for responding to the formal document.
"The request it reasonable," said Cam Jackson. "This has far-reaching implications."

Members of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) handed out 250 surgical masks, which were briefly worn by some meeting participants. COPE's co-chair expressed amazement at Transportation Minister Norm Sterling's announcement about tolling trucks on the QEW after the mid-peninsula highway is completed.

"He doesn't mind having hundreds of trucks spewing exhaust through Burlington, Hamilton and Flamborough," said Bob Williams.

He said COPE is not necessarily against the highway, but it opposes the circumventive way it's being planned.

Williams demanded transportation planners wait for Smart Growth recommendations and conduct a brand new needs assessment study which includes the Greater Toronto Area.
COPE members also noted the environmental assessment won't examine need for the highway, just route alternatives.

But ministry officials say a full environmental assessment is being held.
Senior planner Bill Rhamey noted the ministry has held an unprecedented 15 public meetings so far.

"There'll be very intensive consultations to identify what transportation needs are in the area," he said. "We believe we need both transit and highway improvements."

But meeting participants argued the project will create more problems than it solves.

"The new highway will not solve traffic congestion," said Whitney Rodricks of Environmental Defence Canada. "Developers will buy land near the highways and more housing means more sprawl and more congestion. We need good regional transportation planning."

David Pengelly called for comprehensive air pollution impact studies for the project. "It's naive to assume that putting the highway further from people will solve the air pollution problem," he said.

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