Mid-peninsula highway subject of new protests

The Grimsby Lincoln News - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Three new alternative starting points for the proposed mid-peninsula corridor were released by the Ministry of Transportation Feb.1.The highway will be going through Niagara West probably in the West Lincoln area.

A number of environmental groups are at loggerheads with the Ministry of Transpor- tation (MTO)over the latest documents released for the $1.2 billion proposed Mid- Peninsula Corridor highway.

The draft terms of reference for the Mid- Peninsula Corridor ’s environmental assess- ment (EA)were presented at public information centres (PICs)earlier this month, stirring further criticism from several groups.

At a PIC in Burlington on February 4, members of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE)donned gas masks to symbolically demonstrate distaste for what Mid-peninsula highway subject of new protests they call “the smell arising from the highway planning process ”.

Among the concerns COPE has,is the fact the MTO are continuing with a “scoped ” EA for the 130-- kilometer highway,which is proposed to run from Burlington to Fort Erie.

“A scoped EA will not examine the need for the highway or any other trans- portation alternatives,but will only suggest small vari- ations in the route the high- way will take between Burlington and Fort Erie,” COPE representatives said in a press release.

Vineland resident Pat Morris is among the local residents who says she is “concerned with the govern- mental process that is cur- rently underway ”.

Ms. Morris attended the two lat- est PICs. “Supposedly the terms of reference is the process for setting the study guidelines but it has already limited the scope of the study area to be a preconceived highway and transit path between Welland and the Hamilton airport,” said Ms.Morris, adding she feels other transit options that should be explored.

“The highway should be considered the last resort and not the preferred option,” she said.

A member of the Peninsula Field Naturalists, Ms. Morris said she is concerned about the impact on the environment. “I believe there is more to environmental protection than moving the highway a couple hundred feet here or there to avoid damaging watercourses,” she said.

Among the water features that could be affected according to the terms of reference are Twenty Mile and Forty Mile creeks. Ms.Morris also touched on the potential for significant growth along the pro- posed highway.

“Is the highway to alleviate the anticipated growth or facilitate it?
One has only to look at Mississauga today to see the long-range future of the Niagara Peninsula if Toronto is allowed unre- strained expansion,” she said.

Erie-Lincoln MPP Tim Hudak recently said if it was up to him,he would have “built it yesterday”.

"There ’s no doubt that we must carefully consider what environmental impact the highway would have,but there ’s no question in my mind that a southern route makes the most sense,” Mr. Hudak said, adding putting the highway north of Welland would “lessen the benefits to southern and western Niagara ”.

A spokesperson for the MTO said they are “confident ” the need is there for a new highway. “You ’ve got to remember we ’re looking many years ahead.The last time a process like this was done a route was being chosen for the 407. That was 30 something years ago and it wasn ’t built until five years ago,” said Will MacKenzie, infor mation officer for the Central Region, who spoke to the media on behalf of the MTO at a PIC in Welland on February 5.

There ’s a fine balance between protecting the needs of the environment and economic needs.That ’s what this environmental assessment is all about,” he said.

Comments on the terms of reference will be accepted by the MTO up until March 17.
They can be submitted at www.midpeninsulahighway.on.ca on the Internet.

All comments will be reviewed and the EA terms of reference will be finalized and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment for approval.

COPE will be holding a joint-sponsored meeting with the City of Burlington on Tuesday,Feb.25 at the Holiday Inn in Burlington, at 7 p.m.

Updated informa- tion about the highway will be discussed.

 

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