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