Province must slow pace of
mid-peninsula road plan

Hamilton Spectator Editorial, Feb. 6, 2003

Transportation: Alternatives deserve study

The Ernie Eves government can brace for election-year political trouble in Hamilton and Burlington if it tries to fast-track the latest proposals for the mid-peninsula highway. That much is clear in light of growing concern about potential routes as outlined by the Transportation Ministry.

It's no surprise that Flamborough residents are less than thrilled with a new alternative, connecting the mid-peninsula corridor to an upgraded Highway 6 in the Millgrove area and then to Highway 403 in Burlington. The proposal would entail major rebuilding of Highway 6 on the steep grade of Clappison's Cut, widening of 403, and an overhaul of the busy Freeman Interchange at the conflux of the 403, the QEW, and Highway 407.

Would such a route be consistent with sustainable planning? We doubt it. The concept would more likely promote congestion, sprawl and smog.

This new route, one of four on the table, does have the advantage of avoiding a crossing of the escarpment in north Burlington. It's not as outlandish as the concept of widening Highway 403 to 12 lanes through Hamilton and Ancaster, an idea that's fraught with so many problems as to be a non-starter.

But the latest proposal is problematic to say the least. It will only reinforce calls for the ministry to do a comprehensive study of overall transportation needs, taking a more serious look at upgraded high-speed rail, transit, and traffic management strategies as well as a potential new highway.

We have supported the mid-peninsula corridor in principle, from Niagara to Hamilton, as preferable to widening the QEW in Niagara with a further loss of the irreplaceable tender fruit lands. From the start, however, it has been a struggle to convince the ministry to consider a broad range of possible routes, and smart-growth alternatives with less impact on the environment.

For example, the latest plans are in a voluminous 180-page report released on Feb. 1. The ministry is asking for public comment by March 17. Six weeks is far too short a period of time to gauge public reaction and allow affected municipalities and stakeholders time for constructive criticism. A 90-day consultation period should be given for a project of this magnitude.

A forthcoming report from the Central Ontario Smart Growth panel deserves to be factored in. We expect it will call for significant investment in public transit to relieve smog and gridlock. If the government isn't careful, the danger is that planning for the mid-peninsula corridor will be done in isolation of smart-growth thinking.

An upgraded highway system -- either improvements to the existing network or a new superhighway -- will be required to accommodate forecast population and employment growth in Hamilton and Niagara. But before those decisions are made, the onus is on the government to prove it has gone an extra mile to promote a more diversified transportation strategy.

-- Gord McNulty

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