City endorses mid-peninsula

The Flamborough Post By Irene Gentle
04/16/03

City councillors endorsed a staff recommendation urging "strong support" of the proposed mid-peninsula highway.

The controversial road is meant to link the Niagara area with Toronto, possibly by traveling through Flamborough farmland to connect with either Hwy. 401, an expanded Hwy. 403 or the 407 ETR in Burlington.

But while the province has argued that it is needed to ease congestion in the corridor, the road has been vehemently opposed by many citizens. They feel other options, such as transit, have been given a short shrift in the debate.

Those objecting to the road include the grassroots Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment, as well as the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, an umbrella group of environmental organizations.

Ironically, the city's endorsement comes on the heels of a CONE report urging, among other things, an immediate halt on expressways and expressway expansions, including the mid-peninsula hwy.

Dave Eckersley of COPE said the move "is disappointing." He noted that yesterday's above seasonal temperatures should have given the city pause when passing the report.

"I'm wondering if we're going to get our first air quality warning, the first of maybe 30 or 40," said the Troy resident. "I think Hamilton should think about that."

The staff report stated that the mid-peninsula highway is needed to address congestion, economic growth and long term land use for the city. A copy of the report will likely be forwarded to the Ministry of Transportation Ontario as well as the Minister of Environment, area MPPs and MPs as well as Niagara and Halton regions.

The city was responding to a Niagara Peninsula needs assessment study by the province, which was supported fully by staff. But the proposed environmental assessment terms of reference was not.

"Staff continued to raise concerns on the manner in which the environmental review was conducted," read the report. In particular, staff objected that transportation needs were looked at before environmental concerns. Also, it charged that the MTO ignored environmental criteria found in the Ontario Planning Act.

A draft terms of reference has been released by the MTO, with an initial comment deadline of mid-March.

Deadline extended

But a public outcry led to an extension of that deadline to the end of this month. Once all the comments are in, the MTO will forge a final terms of reference to go before the MOE for vetting. That will usher in another five-week comment period.

The city had a host of concerns about the draft TofR. They included uncertainty about the flexibility of the process and that issues of water quality do not go far enough.

The city is also hoping for broader public consultation than that permitted by the public information meetings held by the province so far.

But by endorsing the needs assessment city staff seems to feel council will have more of a say in the final product.

By concurring, read the report "council would be providing a position with respect to a total of 44 separate recommendations dealing with the improvements to transportation systems in the Golden Horseshoe area."

In contrast, a decision not to endorse the needs assessment would likely not change the province's determination and thus is not recommended, said the report.

But that made little sense to Ward 15 Councillor Margaret McCarthy, who wondered why the city is being asked to show strong support for something it clearly has many concerns about.

Inconsistencies

"There are some logistical inconsistencies," she said.

She voted against the endorsement, as did councillors Andrea Horwath and Tom Jackson. Ward 14 Councillor Dave Braden, who has been a strong critic of the road, was absent.

But there is more to come. A separate report to council asks the MTO to consult directly with the public on the TofR and address their issues prior to initiating the final study.

At that time, council would be asked to reaffirm its support of the needs study.

It also asks the MTO to fund a peer review panel to provide input.

 

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