Mid-peninsula highway proposal target of criticism


Oakville Beaver, Nov. 8, 2002

Dennis Smith, Special to the Beaver

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.
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 Highway 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.
Oakville councillor Allan Elgar called the highway study 'biased and misleading' and said it doesn't look closely enough at alternatives.
"The only reason for building the highway is to get more money from Toronto to the Niagara casino," said Elgar.
"Railway use has not been looked at from a commercial point of view."
Building the highway is the worst decision where air quality is concerned, he said. "If we can't breathe, nothing else matters."


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