New alternatives no victory: CONE

Irene Gentle - Nov 27, 2002

The new options on the table for the mid-peninsula corridor is no victory, say area activists.

Jason Thorne of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE) and Dave Eckersley of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE), say those against the laying of a highway through sensitive environment lands won't win until options such as public transit and rail are considered as part of the upcoming environmental assessment terms of reference.

Public meetings to discuss the new options, including a connection to Hwy. 401 west of Milton or a widened Hwy. 403 near Hamilton, took place yesterday at the Rockton Fairgrounds and tomorrow (Thursday) at the Holiday Inn in Burlington. It runs from 3-9 p.m., with a presentation kicking off at 6:30 p.m.

The result of Tuesday's meeting was not available as of press time.

Still on the table is a proposed linking of the mid-peninsula to the 407 ETR in Burlington, a connection that infuriated many in that city and that may be behind the Ministry of Environment's decision to put other alternatives to the test.

"People have made it clear that the connection (to Hwy. 407) is not a very popular option," said Ministry Information Officer Will MacKenzie last week.

But Thorne is convinced that the others aren't any better.

"Either the ministry has selective hearing or they really weren't paying attention," he said. "We're still really just looking at a highway option."

He said residents who have been piling into public information meetings have made it clear that non-highway alternatives are the route to go in the province's efforts to ease congestion between Fort Erie and the Greater Toronto Area.

"What it comes down to is you can't build a highway of that magnitude without there being a significant environmental impact," he said.

Extending the proposed corridor over to the Hwy. 401 connection will mean paving over forest and wetlands, said Thorne.

"We haven't done the analysis of that route in fine detail but the Beverly Swamp is in there, woodlands are in there. It's equally as bad as going to the 407," he said.

And opening up Hwy. 403 to as many as 12 lanes, filling in parts of Cootes Paradise to accommodate them, is even worse, he added.

Eckersley feels that having new options on the table is a "tiny step in the right direction," but added "I'm concerned this will be perceived as a victory and I'm not sure it is. I'm a little concerned that people in Burlington will just say 'oh, well.'"

Thorne agreed, urging Burlington residents not to give up their battle against the road because it may not link up to the 407.

"The concerns go far beyond Burlington," he said. "I'd warn them not to be satisfied or appeased by this."

Eckersley feels all routes on the table will have a negative environmental impact and most of them will particularly hit Flamborough.

"They (the MTO) are doing this to shut up some of the protest in Burlington but Flamborough kind of gets the shaft in two or three options left on the table," he said.

Thorne urged residents to be clear that they want non-highway routes explored in the EA terms of reference.

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