Ontario government has quietly shelved long-standing and controversial
plans to build a new highway to ease congestion on the Queen Elizabeth
Way, which carries traffic from the Toronto-Hamilton area through
the Niagara Peninsula to the United States.
reversal of plans to press ahead with the so-called Mid-Peninsula
Corridor follows warnings that several Progressive Conservative
MPPs could be vulnerable because of opposition to the highway, especially
in communities around Hamilton.
Zimmerman, the chair of the Region of Niagara who has been arguing
for the highway for nine years, was frustrated at the government's
change in plans.
this is not being done for political reasons because of the potential
election on the horizon and the necessity to placate the residents
[of Burlington and Halton]," she said.
to build the $1.2-billion, 130-kilometre toll highway is in the
Tories' campaign platform, The Road Ahead.
Tory MPP for Burlington, former tourism minister Cam Jackson, has
been one of the most vociferous opponents of the highway because
of its potential to increase traffic and damage the environment.
he praised the decision to review the existing plans for the highway.
province hasn't sufficiently examined the environmental impacts
of building a new highway along the Niagara Escarpment," Mr. Jackson
added that opponents of the government's plans "aren't sure the
proposed route will solve all our transit issues, and we argue that
the province is breaking environmental law by moving forward with
this environmental assessment."
Minister Frank Klees revealed the change in government plans in
a letter sent yesterday to Environment Minister Jim Wilson. A copy
of the letter was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
letter cited objections by the City of Burlington and the Region
of Halton as reasons that a hold has been put on the government's
commitment to build the highway. It said the Transportation Ministry
wants to change the terms of reference for the environmental assessment
to meet complaints from the municipalities.
will be resubmitting the [environmental assessment's terms of reference]
at a later date once the amendments have been incorporated and additional
consultation with key stakeholders and municipalities is completed,"
Mr. Klees said in his letter.
added, "The ministry remains committed to moving ahead with this
Zimmerman noted that while the government has not dropped the idea
of building the highway, the announcement means further delays for
a project that the Niagara Region has sought for several years.
highway is planned as a way to move cars and trucks off the Queen
Elizabeth Way and as an alternative to widening it, which would
pave over valuable lands that grow grapes and other tender fruits.
Mid-Peninsula Corridor would run west from the Peace Bridge border
crossing at Fort Erie through the middle of the Niagara Peninsula
and loop up to the Hamilton airport, southwest of Hamilton. From
there it would curve west of Hamilton to Burlington and then link
up with the expressways serving the Greater Toronto Area.
the policies of the Tory government, it would be a toll highway
similar to the controversial Highway 407.
government was forced to rethink its plans for the highway when
the City of Burlington went to court on June 16 asking for a judicial
review of the terms of reference for the environmental assessment
and arguing that they were too narrow.
June 17, a ruling in a different case by Ontario Superior Court
added ammunition to Burlington's argument. The court ruled that
the Environment Minister does not have the legal authority to approve
a narrow environmental assessment.
Mayor Rob MacIsaac said he was pleased by the government's change
of heart, which puts an end to the city's court challenge.
said Burlington wants the province to consider whether a highway
is needed or whether there should be more environmentally friendly
alternatives, such as upgraded public transit and increased use
of rail for freight instead of trucks on highways.
really need to take an integrated approach to managing transportation.
. . . Just building another highway doesn't cut it in the GTA. You
need to be thinking about rail. You need to be thinking much more
about public transportation," he said.