Residents call for highway alternatives

Melanie Cummings, Special to the Flamborough Post

Dave Eckersley,
Special to the Post

COPE supporters listen to presentations at last week's
Ministry of Transport public
meeting, held in Rockto

Dozens more people added their voices to the growing chorus of public discontent over plans to build a new highway east from the Niagara region.

Flamborough and area residents, such as Jack Santa-Barbara, challenge Ministry of Transportation (MTO) projections that the proposed mid-peninsula highway is necessary to accommodate the 2.5 million more people expected to move into the area over the next 30 years, and that industrial and manufacturing interests won't be able to do business well enough with existing highway structures.

"Is this an accurate estimation?" asked Santa-Barbara.

He was one of just over 100 people who attended the final Terms of Reference Public Information Centre, held at the Rockton Fairgrounds last Thursday.

While the province is of the build-it-and-they-will-come mindset, residents such as Santa-Barbara believe it should be the other way around. "Try alternatives first," urged the Ancaster resident. "We need new paradigms, guys, and you have got to help to get it."

His words were directed at consultants and Ministry of Transportation (MTO) officials who made a short presentation, which focused mainly on highway options, and also answered questions from the public.

Four potential routes have been proposed. Each stretches from the QEW in Niagara heading east to connect to either: Hwy. 407 in Burlington; Hwy. 401 west of the Niagara Escarpment; a widened Hwy. 403; or lastly, a widened Hwy. 6, including a widening of Hwy. 403.

At this point, a draft has been prepared of the terms of reference used to assess the environmental impact on the strip of land (located south of the QEW) targeted for the highway.

The deadline for public comment on the draft is March 17.
Throughout the year-long process, 500 comments have been logged on the ministry Web site and more than 3,000 people have attended public information meetings.

Ted McMeekin, Liberal MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot, has attended the bulk of them. He feels improving or enhancing existing rail, transit and shipping routes are options that need "fuller analysis" rather than jumping to road building.

While the MTO's focus is trained on accommodating the road travel needs of a future population, Kevin King asked them to think about the health of that group. "We all need fresh air, water and land," he said.

David Pengelly saw a "fatal flaw" in the 180-page ministry report on the mid-Peninsula transportation corridor report. Only two-thirds of one page was dedicated to the impact on air pollution. "The provincial government already fails to protect air quality -- witness the increase in hospital admissions over the years for air quality related illnesses," he charged.

Flamborough's Richard Roung has no doubt a new highway will be well used. "We are all guilty of filling highways the government builds," said Round. "We have to change the way we live."
Sue McMaster of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) is also looking for more environmentally friendly options. "What's the rush? Especially if so many people are opposed to these highway options," she said. "We're talking about 30 years down the line."

But time is running out. Once the TofR have been finalized, they will be submitted to the Ministry of Environment for approval, likely by the end of March. The public has 30 days to respond to the report before a government decision is rendered.

In the meantime, COPE is hosting its own meeting to discuss next steps. It will be held Feb. 25 at the Burlington Convention Centre, 7 p.m.


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