Bill 25 will not be used for mid-pen highway

Dennis Smith The Burlington Post June 4, 2003

The controversial Bill 25 won't be used for the proposed mid-peninsula highway.

Burlington's mayor said that assurance was provided at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday) with the deputy minister of transportation.

"It was heartening to hear that," said Rob MacIsaac. "Their position was they did not intend to do that (apply Bill 25) insofar as the mid-peninsula highway is concerned."

He anticipates receiving a letter confirming the bill won't be used for the proposed highway from Niagara to Hamilton/Halton.

Local politicians were concerned the proposed legislation could speed the passage of new highways like the mid-peninsula route, which they fear will be connected to Hwy. 407 in Burlington.

City council members had railed against Bill 25, which MacIsaac recently called "an appalling piece of legislation."

They argued the bill would override municipal planning, freeze property rights without compensation and eliminate the Environmental Assessment Act from new highway planning.

MacIsaac said yesterday he was encouraged by the news concerning Bill 25. The assurance about the bill came at a meeting involving the mayor, deputy minister of transportation David Guscott, plus provincial, city and Halton staff.

Another key meeting topic was the mid-peninsula highway planning process.

Burlington and Halton are suing the province, claiming unreasonable recommendations for creating the highway and a process that has shown little regard for Halton residents' interests.

"An effort is under way between the staffs that is aimed at avoiding litigation," said MacIsaac. "We will assess where we are on Friday to see if the discussions are bearing fruit."

Staff for both sides are slated to meet again tomorrow (Thursday) to try to resolve issues surrounding the legal action.

MacIsaac said Burlington and Halton officials want to be satisfied there will be a thorough study of all reasonable avenues, such as transit alternatives.

"Our view is we need to take a systematic approach to transportation in the region," he said. "Currently, the terms of reference don't take a broad enough view. Our view is that they're quite focused on the highway and we're doing all we can to have a more holistic approach."

Amendments to the highway's environmental terms of reference (ie: how to examine the highway route or its alternatives) are needed to address these concerns, said MacIsaac.

He said if legal action is required, it will be launched before June 20, the deadline for feedback on the terms of reference.

"If the lawsuit goes ahead it will come on pretty fast and furious," said MacIsaac. "We will know the answer to the lawsuit soon. I don't see a protracted three-year battle over it."

Ministry officials describe the project as the mid-peninsula transportation corridor, which could include a new highway, transit way or both.

They have warned a highway may be needed to serve major increases forecast for population and traffic growth between Toronto and Niagara.

Four choices are being considered for the local connection with the mid peninsula highway, including Hwy. 407 near Walker's Line, an expanded Hwy. 403 on Hamilton Mountain, Hwy. 401 west of Milton and Hwy. 6 in Flamborough.

Critics say the highway will be a toll road costing more than $1 billion that will damage the environment while failing to alleviate traffic congestion.

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