City must give province decision on mid-pen highway this week

Fri 05 Sep 2003 - Burlington Post - Byline: Robb Swybrous

City council was deciding last night (Thursday) whether to approve an
agreement made between the province and municipal/regional governments to
revise the terms of reference of environmental assessment (EA) for the
proposed mid-peninsula highway.

Details of the agreement were released to Burlington residents Wednesday at
a public information session at Mainway Arena. A second information session
was scheduled for last night followed by a special council meeting where
Burlington's elected officials were expected to vote on the recently
reached agreement.

City officials had until last night to inform the MTO of council's decision.
Wednesday's information session heard Leo DeLoyde, the city's general
manger of development and infrastructure, call the agreement a positive
step in getting the Ministry of Transportation to consider concerns
Burlington residents have over the proposed highway between Fort Erie, Ont.
and the Greater Toronto Area.

"It's significant movement on the part of the ministry to deal with the
community issues of Burlington and Hamilton," he said. "We (City of
Burlington staff) recommend council approve it at this stage."
As of Wednesday evening, city officials had yet to have written
confirmation of the agreement in principle reached last week between the
MTO and municipal governments of Burlington, Hamilton and regional
officials from Halton and Niagara.

An original terms of reference for the EA was submitted in May by the
province. City of Burlington and Halton Region staff and elected officials
didn't like much of what was proposed in it and in June the groups filed a
judicial review of the terms of reference with Ontario Superior Court of
Justice. Ten days later MTO minister Frank Klees withdrew the original
document and agreed to meet with stakeholders on the issue. That prompted
the recent meetings that resulted in the agreement presented to the public.
Details of the agreement include:

Considering Smart Growth solutions -- the MTO agreed to consider options to
a highway in the mid-peninsula corridor. Options include widening existing
roads and considering additional transit and rail alternatives.
Modeling data -- previous planning models used data from 1996. The MTO
agreed to use 2001 data that is the most up to date available.
Steering committee -- MTO agreed to establish a new steering committee/
advisory group to consult with the government. That group will likely
consist of elected officials from the concerned municipalities/regions and
members of stakeholder groups including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce,
Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment and the Ontario Federation of
Agriculture.

Urban-rural boundary issues -- MTO agreed to account for Burlington's and
Hamilton's long-rang planning programs and urban-rural boundaries in EA
decision making.


The agreement also called for improved turnaround times on information
regarding the proposed mid-peninsula highway to allow the public sufficient
time to review documents and materials.

Gary Wrathwall of Burlington attended Wednesday's session and was pleased
with the MTO's movement.

"I think they've made a significant move. Before it was a fait d'accompli
that it would be built," he said. "Now they seem to be more open to other
questions (like) do we even need a mid-peninsula highway?
"I think the people of Burlington will be pretty happy with this. I
certainly am."

There were concerns expressed by some in attendance, however. One resident
wondered whether this sudden softening in what had been a firm stance by
the MTO to push the highway through is part of a ploy to garner votes in
the upcoming provincial election. Others wondered if a new minister would
pull the agreement off the table after Oct. 2.

DeLoyde said since much of the MTO work is done by paid ministry staff who
remain in their jobs regardless of the election's outcome, the agreement
isn't likely to change after Oct. 2.
 

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