little doubt that the province has been ham-handed and insensitive
in its plans for a mid-peninsula highway. While we believe the so-called
"mid-pen" is needed and important to relieving serious highway congestion
in the Niagara Peninsula, we have sympathy for Burlington, which
prides itself on careful planning and smart growth, only to see
a highway rammed through its protected rural area.
was brought into the process after Niagara region and Hamilton had
been consulted, and had virtually signed off on the proposal.
has one of the most carefully managed planning and growth strategies
of any municipality in Ontario. But it is likely where the mid-pen
would dump its traffic load onto the QEW and highways 403 and 407.
To make those connections, it would have to cross the Niagara Escarpment.
province has identified several options to bring the eastern terminus
of the mid-pen down to existing highways, including Highway 403
between Mohawk and Aberdeen/Main Street East, and Highway 6 south
of Clappison's Cut. But few people see those as anything but decoys;
the smart money is on what the province calls "Option C" -- crossing
the escarpment in rural north Burlington.
was made even more unpalatable to Burlington by the province setting
short timelines for response to its 179-page draft terms of reference,
which includes its route options.
Burlington and Halton region are trying to get a judicial order
to stop the highway. They want a full environmental assessment (instead
of the faster and more limited "scoped" assessment). Part of that
full assessment would be consideration of other alternatives, such
as mass transit.
in Niagara and Hamilton, the need for a mid-pen highway is not mainly
a commuter issue. It's largely about truck traffic -- vast numbers
of 18-wheelers crossing the border every hour. The pressure on the
QEW Niagara -- and the agricultural/residential corridor through
which it runs -- grows every year. The mid-pen highway would significantly
and Halton, must realize that their enviable assessment growth --
both business and residential -- has to a very large extent resulted
from their placement astride the QEW, the 403 east of Oakville,
and now the 407. Trucks and commuters flow relatively easily in
and out of Halton on a network of highways. Niagara and Hamilton
do not have that: All the traffic that moves from the U.S. border
at Niagara Falls and Fort Erie is funnelled onto one congested route.
environmental assessment that bogs down a project for years while
development and growth continue apace does no one any good. Assessment
of the mid-pen project must keep pace with the demand for it.
province has to communicate its case better and listen to municipalities
more. It must deal with Burlington concerns, even if it means providing
a special, broader assessment for the route where it crosses the
said that, the assessment should ultimately answer the question
of not whether to build the highway, but how to reduce its environmental
impact as much as possible.
province needs to take notice of, and deal with, Burlington's concerns
before the courts force it to. As the Tories found out with their
planned sale of Hydro One, courts can derail even government plans.