McCarthy blasts proposal to connect MPH with Highway #6 at Millgrove

By Dianne Cornish
Flamborough Review – Feb. 14, 2003

The newest alternative route proposed for the Mid Peninsula Highway (MPH) got the cold shoulder from Flamborough/Ward 15 Councillor Margaret McCarthy, who urged Ministry of Transportation (MTO) officials to drop the option from the table.

Speaking at a ministry-hosted Public Information Centre (PIC) in Rockton last week, the councillor asked officials to explain why they would contemplate a route connecting the controversial superhighway to Highway #6 in Flamborough and then funnelling motorists southward down the Clappison¹s Cut to a widened Highway #403 in Burlington. She challenged officials to explain why they had rejected the route, initially, and why it is now back on the table.

The route was added at the request of the City of Burlington, a fact that came to light last week. While studying additional routes is something which MPH opponents have clamoured for in recent months, many continue to believe MTO officials will not be swayed from the “preferred option” mentioned in a draft Needs Assessment study presented several months ago. That option shows a highway starting at Fort Erie, cutting through much of rural Flamborough and the Niagara Escarpment before connecting with the 407 toll highway in north Burlington.

Responding to Councillor McCarthy’s concerns, ministry consultant Paul Hudspith said the Highway #6 route was originally abandoned because its routing is indirect, swinging around Hamilton and then back southward toward Highway #403. Another reason for dismissal was the option’s tendency to overload neighbouring regional roads, particularly Highway #5 (Dundas Street), he added.

Noting that traffic volumes on Highway #6 have been “consistently problematic” and that some residents back onto the heavily-travelled highway, the Flamborough councillor strongly urged officials to “stick with your first instincts to instinctively dismiss it (the Highway #6 connection).”

About 120 guests attended the public meeting held in the Rockton Fairgrounds hall to hear details of the draft Terms of Reference which will be presented this spring to the Ministry of Environment in preparation for an environmental assessment on the proposed $1.2-billion highway.

Two other routes, besides the proposed connections to Highways #407 or #6, will also be evaluated. They call for merging the mid-peninsula route to Highway # 403 near Ancaster and widening Highway 403 from six lanes to 12 through Hamilton, or having the route cut through Flamborough to connect with Highway #401 near Milton.

Project opponents, which have dominated the 15 public meetings held on the proposal since last July, continue to question the need for the highway.

They argue, as they did at the Rockton meeting, that alternate forms of transportation, including transit and rail, haven’t been thoroughly reviewed.

They also argue the new highway will cause irreparable damage to the environment, polluting soil and water, and changing the natural landscape (particularly the escarpment) forever.

Proponents insist transportation improvements are needed to foster economic growth and international trade, as well as meet the needs of increased tourism and commuter traffic.
Population growth in the study area is expected to reach 2.5 million over the next 20 years, Mr. Hudspith told the close to 120 area residents attending the Rockton meeting.

Lynden resident Jack Santa-Barbara questioned the accuracy of the population projection, estimating it could be out by as much as 20 per cent. “I think there is a lot of uncertainty in those numbers,” he said before recommending ministry officials re-check them.

MTO official Bill Rhamey noted the ministry is required to use population projections provided by municipalities to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Santa-Barbara suggested there are sufficient reasons to put a moratorium on the highway’s planning until Smart Growth panel recommendations are presented and federal government input received.

His son, Josh, a Troy resident, was equally critical of the process, telling the crowd: “I know they want the smog out of the Niagara fruit belt, and obviously it¹s okay to put the smog on the escarpment above Hamilton.” He, too, called for a delay to the process saying that the $1.2 billion needed to build the MPH would go a long way toward enhancing a transit system in the area.

Ted McMeekin, Liberal MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot, said he has attended 11 public meetings on the MPH project. A supporter of “a more diversified transportation strategy,” he proposed that the Ontario government look at the possibility of buying back Highway #407 at “a fair but arbitrary price.”

He also warned of the negative effects of urban sprawl expected to accompany the development of the new highway.

“There’s a real fear here that induced growth will make us, in the short term, a Mississauga West,” he said. “You need to understand that ain¹t where we want to go,” he told ministry officials.

Troy area resident David Eckersley, who is vice-chairman of COPE (Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment), asked the ministry to consider extending its March 17 deadline for public comment on the EA Terms of Reference (TOR) document released just five days before the Rockton meeting.

The TOR outline how the MTO proposes to generate and evaluate route alternatives, assess impacts and consult stakeholders during the upcoming Route Location EA. The MTO plans to submit the draft TOR to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) late next month. Once the documentation is submitted, the public and government reviewers have 30 days to provide comments on the proposal to the MOE.

The MOE will decide whether the MTO can proceed with the Route Planning EA by approving, conditionally approving or rejecting the EA Terms of Reference.
Assessment of the various routes will include a look at many of the environmental concerns which have been raised at the many public meetings. These include air quality, which Flamborough resident Richard Roung zeroed in on, telling the Rockton crowd: “This planet is our life support system.”

The highway¹s impact on water, both above and below the ground, has also roused concerns.

“Our water aquifers will be altered forevermore,” Kevin King, a Flamborough resident since 1969 noted.

Andy McLaughlin, a Flamborough farmer since 1952, blamed road salt for the deterioration of Spencer Creek and one of its tributaries which run through his property. Fresh-water clams and minnows once found in the creek have disappeared, he said, before advocating the widening of Highway #403 as “the most sensible way to go” if a highway is to be built.

Many at the meeting questioned the need to proceed with the project’s planning as quickly as MTO officials are proposing. Among them was COPE member Sue McMaster.

“What’s the rush? We’re talking about 30 years down the road,” she said of the projected construction date of the MPH.

Consultant Hudspith said the project needs to move forward. “From a professional standpoint, we need to begin the process to protect the future corridor,” he noted.

 

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