Burlington gives province 48 hours to fix mid-pen plan

Carmela Fragomeni The Hamilton Spectator June 10, 2003

Burlington is giving the province 48 hours to meet its demands on the mid-peninsula highway planning process, or the city will meet the province in court.

The city and Halton Region were set to go to court last week but put their action on hold when the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) indicated it could meet their concerns. Negotiations led to concessions by the province but Mayor Rob MacIsaac calls them meaningless.

A confidential mid-peninsula highway document obtained by The Spectator shows the province is willing to add studies to the highway planning process and to make the Niagara Escarpment route a special study area to minimize the highway's impact on it.

The concessions don't cut it for MacIsaac or council.

City council voted unanimously last night to give the MTO until Thursday to meet the city's concerns, or the legal challenge to the province's highway planning process will proceed.

"They know what we want. They'll just have to fish or cut bait," MacIsaac said earlier yesterday.

What Burlington wants is a full environmental assessment (EA). It means examining social, economic and natural land effects of the highway. It also means studying alternatives, such as widening existing highways or creating superior rail and public transit systems. The ministry's shortened environmental assessment won't do this.

The MTO appears ready to change that, suggesting in the document that several provincial studies be added as "an integral part" of the EA. These include studies on transit opportunities and goods movement.

MacIsaac called this a "very minor concession" and insufficient.

"They still have not agreed to a robust investigation of other forms of transportation through Halton that we think are necessary."

The fact the MTO is including the studies just now is a testament to how valid Burlington's concerns are and how short-sighted the province is being, he said.

"It shows how myopic the MTO has been to this point."

Burlington also wants assurances the Niagara Escarpment in Burlington will remain untouched by the highway.

The MTO proposes in the confidential report to make the Niagara Escarpment route a special study area.

MacIsaac remained unimpressed.

"If they really have an appreciation for the Niagara Escarpment, why not give it the same attention as the tender fruitlands (in the Niagara Peninsula), where they won't consider building the highway?

"Why don't they give the internationally acclaimed World Biosphere escarpment -- a treasure -- the same consideration?" The United Nations has designated the Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve.

June 20 is the deadline for public comment on the terms of reference for an environmental assessment, the next major step in planning the highway.

The mid-pen, from Fort Erie to Burlington, has aroused Burlington and Flamborough residents and councillors to fight the highway in Halton and particularly the original plan to have it cut across the Niagara Escarpment and through the countryside to join the 407. The transportation ministry has since added alternative routes, including one taking the highway to the 401 near Campbellville.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]