City in path of two proposed highway corridors

The Guelph Tribune - Tue 11 Mar 2003 - Byline: Janet Baine

City officials are concerned that a new proposed multi-lane highway system for southern Ontario could see Guelph at the crossroads of two major new highways.

One new highway would potentially run in a horseshoe shape between Fort Erie and Peterborough, coming along the west side of the city, according to a map from the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel, which looked at growth issues through to 2035.

A potential second highway would go from Guelph east towards the GTA (running just south of Highway 7) and would head north to Barrie.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion chairs the panel that came up with the idea. It was set up a year ago by the province, and no one from Guelph is on the panel, although city staff have been aware of the process.

"It looks to me as if that would just drive sprawl," Mayor Karen Farbridge said of the proposed highways, which are described as "economic corridors" in the Smart Growth panel report.

Farbridge said it seems to be "extremely contradictory" for the Smart Growth panel to propose new highways that could exacerbate the development issues faced in Guelph and other municipalities.

She noted that Burlington and Oakville, which would be bypassed by the proposal, can more easily make their viewpoints known on such matters, as they are closer to Toronto.

Brantford, Cambridge and Guelph "are at a tremendous disadvantage" in participating in this sort of process. "We'll have to put more effort into that," Farbridge said at Monday's meeting of the city's planning, environment and transportation (PET) committee.

The city has until March 21 to comment on this report, which was presented at a public meeting last week in Waterloo.

City staff will write a report and make a presentation on the proposal at a special meeting of the PET committee on the issue to be held next Monday at 9:15 a.m. Other city councillors will be invited to attend.

Based on the committee's comments, staff will send comments to the panel to meet its March 21 deadline. The issue won't get to city council until April 7.

A second provincial initiative on transportation is also proposing a new highway through Guelph. The Ministry of Transportation is proposing a transportation corridor that would also go in a horseshoe, and it is about to create the terms of reference to begin an environmental assessment of the highway. The city has to provide input by March 19.

City staff will provide comments without taking their ideas to a committee or council, because there is no time.

"The province is managing these processes and may or may not understand that it takes weeks" for a municipal government to get the information, digest it, and take the information through committees and council in order to respond, said manager of policy planning Craig Manley. But he added things are still at the conceptual stage in a multi-year planning process.

He said the city will suggest that Guelph be informed and have the opportunity to participate in the process.

"I'm not sure what the impact will be. There is no question there will be pressure for development in Guelph," Manley said.

"You only have to look at the location of Guelph, and it is quite obvious that we're right in the middle of prime development, and this doesn't surprise me," said Coun. David Birtwistle. However, "it does surprise me that we haven't been brought into the folds of the discussion. But we're going to be forcing it," he said.

"I agree with most of what has been said, but I'm a little hesitant to jump up and down and get excited about this," said Coun. Marilyn Shapka, adding she is not afraid of Guelph losing its identity

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