Mid-peninsula highway talks hit a roadblock

Stakeholder opinions mixed over location, need for proposed route

Dennis Smith- Nov 8, 2002 - Burlington Post

The proposed mid-peninsula highway is already drawing heavy traffic of opinions and collisions of viewpoints.

Stakeholders aired many concerns Wednesday at a Burlington workshop about the proposed road from Niagara Region to the Hamilton-Halton area.

It was hosted by the Ministry of Transportation, which will recommend next month which routes will be considered in the next study phase.

Options include connecting the new route with Hwy. 407 near Walker's Line, Hwy. 403 in Hamilton, Hwy. 401 east or west of Milton and Hwy. 6 in the Flamborough area.

How, where and whether the mid-peninsula highway should be built were hot topics at the workshop. Politicians, plus citizen, environmental, transportation and business organizations participated in the discussion.

A Niagara Escarpment Commission member suggested challenging the assumption this area will attract 2.5 million more residents.

"We're spiralling into growth, growth, growth at all costs and we need to challenge this," said Marion Plaunt. "We need to let the Smart Growth analysis go forward and look at the challenges and what are the givens."

But a ministry planning manager said the highway project will parallel Smart Growth studies.

"I've heard concerns the process is moving too slowly and that it's moving too fast," said Fred Leech. "But the process is such that Smart Growth will be done before the road moves ahead."

Some urged that other transportation modes like rail and public transit be upgraded and questioned building the new highway. The route will be detrimental to the environment and air quality, they argued.

"This will damage a sensitive biosphere (the Niagara Escarpment)," said Brendan Kelly of COPE (Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment). "I don't understand how building a huge truck corridor that empties onto Hwy. 407 solves congestion problems."

A solution involving transportation across Ontario is needed, he said, adding that improving transit is important. "We have to re-think the North American mindset emphasizing the car."

The area's transportation issues involve looking at tourism and moving border goods in Niagara and commuter travel in the GTA, said a transportation consultant.

"This is not just a roads plan, it's a significant multi-modal strategy," said Doug Allingham of Totten, Sims, Hubicki. "Originally, we started in Hamilton and Niagara Region, but gradually as we understand the system, we're developing a model that includes the entire Greater Toronto Area."

Existing highway expansions, transit opportunities, rail and ferry service have been examined, he said. "We've looked extensively at moving people and the issues related to goods movement."

Allingham noted local transit usage is low and major increases will be required to meet future transportation requirements.

He warned of major growth in the GTA and Niagara, plus general growth in population, employment, trade and tourism. He said the highway itself would not bring new growth, but Burlington councillor Carol D'Amelio and others disagreed.

D'Amelio questioned whether agricultural lands could be protected if the road goes through those areas.

"We set our urban/rural boundary and it has been protected until now," she said. "But a highway will increase pressures from development concerns."

John Taylor said the ministry should pay more attention to Burlington/Halton concerns involving the proposed highway.

"We were brought late into this process, but a year later there is no recognition of our issues," noted the Ward 3 Burlington councillor. "All the analysis deals with Hamilton and Niagara."

Allingham said Burlington/Halton issues were addressed by the ministry revisiting other mid-peninsula connections beside Hwy. 407.

Burlington politicians are opposing the Hwy. 407 connection and want other alternatives included in the upcoming phase -- the environmental assessment terms of reference.

Burlington's MPP said he has been making those views clear to the transportation minister and his other provincial government colleagues.

"The route that goes through Burlington through the Niagara Escarpment is not well thought out," said Cam Jackson. "We can't lose sight of the fact that we are already at capacity at the QEW in Burlington."

But he believes Burlington and Halton councillors acknowledge a mid peninsula corridor is needed to move goods and services. "There's not a single council saying we don't need a highway."

Jackson believes the new highway might be linked to Hwy. 401 with less disruption to the escarpment.

Burlington's mayor said mid peninsula highway discussions have identified some valid issues.

But the highway proposal will encourage urban sprawl and the traffic impact on Burlington hasn't been considered, said Rob MacIsaac.

Smart Growth plans being developed for the area shouldn't be abandoned in this case, he said.

"The overall growth strategy for central Ontario needs to be respected and enhanced in terms of the mid peninsula corridor," said MacIsaac.

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