Escarpment commission joins call
for broader study of highway plan

Friday April 25, 2003 By Kalvin Reid

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is adding its voice to those of groups opposed to an environmental study that doesn't look at the need for a proposed mid-peninsula highway.

The Ministry of Transportation should revisit the terms of reference that will guide an environmental assessment to determine a route for the highway, the commission decided Thursday.

Instead, the agency is calling for a broader study that will examine the need for the transportation corridor.

"It is an important victory for our side on this one," said Jason Thorne, executive director of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment. "We're quite pleased."

The highway, which is slated to cut a swath through the southern tier of Niagara into the vicinity of Hamilton's John C. Munro Airport before looping around and connecting with the provincial highway network near Burlington, has drawn several critical eyes in the Halton area and CONE has been at the forefront of the opposition.

"This puts yet another agency against what the Ministry of Transportation is proposing, which is a fast-tracked environmental assessment," Thorne said. "The opposition is gaining strength, which could make it very difficult to move forward."

Niagara Region Chair Debbie Zimmerman, a proponent of the highway and an expedited environmental study to select a route, was not surprised by the escarpment commission's decision.

CONE "has been lobbying hard not to have this environmental assessment process move forward," she said when contacted Thursday. "But the need has been fully established prior to this. What I don't understand is Halton and Hamilton have been involved in this since Day 1."

Niagara regional council has expressed its support for the terms of reference guiding the environmental study.

She said there are ways to alleviate concerns in the area of the highway's proposed western terminus without revisiting the need for the entire road.

"The need is clearly established," Zimmerman said. "All you have to do is live near the QEW in Niagara to know how bad it can be."

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