- Joan Little The Hamilton Spectator
Last week provided a classic example of provincial public relations
gone askew -- again.
marked the first of three public meetings to outline draft terms of
reference for an environmental assessment on the controversial mid-peninsula
The Spectator quoted Transportation Minister Norm Sterling as saying
a highway would be built. And, he said, the province is considering
truck tolls on the QEW through Niagara to get them off the QEW onto
the new highway. But no route has been decided, he said. The same edition
reported driver outrage at the fifth 407 toll increase in 40 months.
The public is convinced the "mid-pen" will be a toll highway.
as a "transportation corridor study" now resembles an exercise
justifying the highway the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) wanted --
and Sterling confirmed before the meetings a highway would be built.
representatives talk about transit, rail and transportation strategies,
but their message is loud -- there will be a highway. But they've listened,
they said, and added other corridors. On Tuesday, new "corridor
H" was unveiled, from the QEW in Niagara to Highway 6, and widening
highways 6 and the 403. Cynics expect the original proposed escarpment
route will be chosen, and members of COPE (Citizens Opposed to Paving
the Escarpment) donned symbolic nose masks to protest that "the
process up to now stinks."
at Burlington's meeting asked if their concerns were being relayed to
the minister. Repeated requests that the meetings be recorded were rejected,
but they were assured notes were being taken. A few minutes later, it
was pointed out the recorder took no notes during a complex technical
a COPE member noted the new 183-page "needs assessment" document
that forms part of the terms of reference had been posted on the mid-pen
Web site only two days earlier, and asked for 60 days to respond. (MTO
wanted responses by March 17).
Councillor John Taylor requested April 30, because the city must hire
consultants to assess the documentation. He claimed the ministry said
at the November meeting it would release the document the end of December.
Bill Rhamey of the ministry disagreed, prompting the angry retort, "If
you had a tape of the November meeting you'd know what was said."
Rhamey agreed to pass the request to the minister. Taylor persisted,
"Will you recommend it?" Rhamey said he would recommend the
end of March.
associate professor of medicine at McMaster, noted nitrous oxide emissions
are a grave health concern, but he had not found reference to "air
quality" in the new 183-page document -- other than a reference
that automakers are improving vehicle emissions.
who led the battle against the Red Hill Valley Expressway, also questioned
air quality, asking whether "no highway" would be included
as an option.
was the answer.
resident, named Craig, said a new highway was needed in the Niagara
area and to "do nothing" was not an option. The QEW through
Niagara could not be expanded, he said, because some parts are too constrained.
He moved back to Grimsby, he remarked, because he likes a small community,
and transit is not an option because Grimsby does not have a local transit
system. This generated groans from proponents of increased transit usage.
Taylor-Luce of Burlington asked: "Assuming you built the highway,
where would interchanges be, and how many?"
concern a highway through open country would affect local connecting
roads. This would be dealt with at the route planning stage, she was
were also raised about the implications of Canada having signed the
Kyoto Protocol. Ministry staff said this was being investigated.
has said the province will consider tolls to keep trucks off the QEW
in the Niagara area.
start now in the Hamilton-Toronto corridor? Alternate routes exist --
the 401, 403 and 407 -- and the MTO cites other transportation initiatives:
transit improvements, high occupancy vehicle lanes and a highway commuter
parking lot needs study.
implement these? Then reassess the need for a costly highway, increased
pollution and more smog days. At earlier meetings it was suggested transit
could be viable if it connected the right destinations.
could be cheaper than bashing a new highway through agricultural land
and the escarpment, and expropriating private property. The highway
price tag is only based on "ball park" costs for the initial
proposed route -- $1.2 billion.
of the GTA and Golden Horseshoe becoming Los Angeles north is worrisome.
One brash speaker advocated targeting Tories in the upcoming election.
Somehow everything gets back to politics!
Burlington alderman and Halton councillor Joan Little is a freelance
columnist. She does not identify with any political party. Her views
are her own.