Escarpment agency urges assessment
for planned highway

Apr. 25, 12:56 EDT

Escarpment agency urges assessment for planned highway

Carmela Fragomeni
The Hamilton Spectator

 

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is joining Burlington in calling for full environmental assessment on the province's planned mid-peninsula highway.

It means commissioners want the province to carefully study other methods of travel, like mass transit and rail, and other options on existing highway corridors.

The assessment now concentrates studies on the best routes for the proposed $1.5-billion highway between Fort Erie and Burlington.

Commissioners agreed yesterday to send Premier Ernie Eves and Transportation Minister Frank Klees a letter saying they don't agree with the approach being taken to justify the proposed highway.

The Transportation Ministry is seeking a "scoped" environmental assessment (EA) in its next step toward getting the highway approved. A scoped assessment would look for the best routes that least harm the environment. A full assessment, which takes much longer and is more involved, would examine all options, including improved transit and rail travel.

The commission is responding to an April 30 deadline for comment to the ministry on draft terms of reference for the EA of the project.

A route may be determined in 2006 and the highway built by 2011.

Hamilton council has endorsed the mid-peninsula corridor, while Burlington council is threatening legal action to halt the entire project.

Niagara region supports the plan.

Burlington is opposed to the initial plan to have the mid-peninsula run over the environmentally sensitive Niagara Escarpment into rural Burlington and connect with Highway 407 at Walker's Line.

The Transportation Ministry has since said it will also consider ending the mid-pen at Highway 403 in Hamilton, or Highway 6 in Flamborough, or running it past Freelton to Highway 401.

Burlington is concerned that the highway is not needed, that the Transportation Ministry didn't look at alternatives, and that the EA terms of reference are "deficient" and allow development of the highway to bypass provincial and federal laws. The new toll Highway 407 was built through north Burlington with few objections just a few years ago.

The city promises to bring legal action against the province if its concerns are not answered.

The escarpment commission decision is being hailed by environmentalists and resident groups opposed to the highway and the province's approach.

"This is the only provincial agency that has commented to date," said Jason Thorne, executive director of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE). Thorne said CONE, a coalition of 30 groups to protect the escarpment, is especially pleased that both those for and against the highway agreed a full EA is needed.

 

 

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