City could sue province over highway route


John Taylor: Alternative routes needed

The Hamilton Spectator Saturday, September 28, 2002, p. A07

City could sue province over highway route
By Carmela Fragomeni, The Hamilton Spectator.

Burlington - The city could take the provincial government to court over its mid-peninsula highway proposal. Councillor John Taylor said legal action would be taken if the province doesn't include in its environmental assessment at least some alternatives to the current planned route that cuts through north Burlington. Taylor told a public meeting in Burlington Thursday that if the city is faced with just the current plan, "we will have to take legal action, because we believe the environmental assessment (required to approve the highway) is flawed."

The meeting was another public information session the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is holding on the highway. About 300 people attended, including Tourism Minister and Burlington MPP Cam Jackson, who sat in the audience.

Residents again expressed their anger with the route through rural north Flamborough and Burlington to connect with the toll-charging 407. The route was originally planned to end in Hamilton. Residents' concerns include increased air pollution, more congestion, urban sprawl and a deterioration in quality of life.

The city and a groundswell of citizen opposition have convinced MTO staff to explore other routes. Four are being considered -- two to Highway 401 (one east of Milton, the other west), one stopping at Highway 403 in Hamilton and another to Highway 6. But Ministry staff won't commit to taking any of them to the next step, the environmental assessment.

Flamborough resident Dave Eckersley told the crowd it is time to go after Premier Ernie Eves' Conservative party to stop the highway. Eckersley, of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE), suggested MTO information sessions have become a circus. "The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," he said.

Critics believe the MTO is trying to justify a highway the province has already decided to build. MTO staff say the need is valid and that they have looked at other solutions to traffic congestion, including more transit.

MTO consultant Doug Allingham said the highway "will probably be a toll road." But Eckersley called it folly, because the 407 toll highway has not relieved QEW and Highway 403 congestion as it was meant to. "We tried this solution once. Why would we try this again?"

Allingham, though, said the 407 is "carrying significant traffic" and is regularly congested across Toronto. He said truck traffic has increased to seven per cent of the 407 traffic volume. Residents also questioned the MTO's claim the mid-peninsula proposal is part of the province's Smart Growth policies.

Fred Leech, a MTO manager, said Smart Growth supports a strong economy, strong communities and a strong environment, but "it's not just about protecting the environment alone."

You can contact Carmela Fragomeni at cfragomeni@thespec.com.


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