Sep. 12, 01:44 EDT
Transportation: Transit, road improvements needed
It's time to apply the brakes and return to the drawing board in
studying the proposed mid-peninsula highway as it affects Hamilton
and Burlington. That message resonated emphatically at the latest
public meeting on the controversial project this week. Consultants
retained by Burlington and Hamilton found the transportation ministry's
work to date was full of as many holes as a Swiss cheese. That's
not acceptable for a highway which would have enormous implications
for the people of this area, if it proceeds.
There is growing, and justified, concern in this area about the
ministry's proposal to extend the mid-peninsula highway well beyond
Niagara, route it around Hamilton and then east across Burlington
to Highway 407. It isn't only the route itself which has upset many
people. It's the way in which the ministry has appeared to fast-track
a preferred route by quickly ruling out alternatives, placing too
little value on expanded public transit, and spending much less
time evaluating the impact in the entire Hamilton/Burlington area
as opposed to Niagara.
A long list of flaws was identified by the consultants. They found,
among other things, that the ministry had assumed no increase in
the relatively small share of transportation demand now served by
public transit over the next 30 years. That sort of thinking might
have been expected from "the ministry of trucks and cars"
(the nickname for the ministry when it was known as the Ministry
of Transportation and Communications), but it shows a lack of creativity.
It gives short shrift to the growing recognition that governments
at all levels must invest more effort in upgrading GO Transit and
improving the existing road network -- including a serious commitment
to high-occupancy vehicle lanes for cars with two, three or more
passengers -- before they settle on a $1.6-billion superhighway.
The connection to the 407 tollway, as opposed to other routes involving
Highway 401, came in for more criticism. Halton planners reported
that a link to the 401 could accommodate the projected travel demand
as well as 407. A potential 401 connection west of Campbellville,
or farther west using a route such as Highway 8, would eliminate
the likelihood of tolls and protect the Niagara Escarpment.
Burlington Councillor John Taylor, the first municipal politician
in the area to alert the public to the ministry's plans, deserves
credit for persuading the ministry to revisit the alternatives.
Burlington MPP Cam Jackson, until now as quiet as the eye of a hurricane,
told the meeting that he thinks the ministry's plan is too narrow
in focus and that other routes must be examined in the environmental
As Taylor said, a superhighway should be the last resort to solving
commuter congestion in the Burlington/Hamilton area. The groundswell
of public concern is powerful evidence that it would be smart of
the government to accelerate improvements to existing roads and
public transit before building another new highway through the heart
of this area.
-- Gord McNulty