Anti-highway group is growing:
COPE has members at both ends of proposed mid-peninsula corridor

Tribune (Welland) - Mon 02 Dec 2002

WELLAND - A movement that is opposing the construction of a new highway
through the length of the Niagara Peninsula from Burlington to Fort Erie
or Niagara Falls is gathering momentum.

Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) already has about 1,000
members, says Dave Eckersley of Hamilton, an member of the group's
executive.
Most of them are in Hamilton and Burlington, but slowly people from this
end of the peninsula are joining too. The present number is between 50 and 60,
says Robert Kuret of Dain City. He is the COPE spokesman for southern
Niagara.

Last week, the Ministry of Transportation held a public meeting at the
Legion Hall to present its plans and invite comments from the public.

And comments they got were nearly all negative, said Eckersley.

Some 120 to 125 people attended, of whom 20 to 25 stepped up to the
microphone to say what they think of the plan. All but two opposed the
plans.

Kuret is one of them. Environmental concerns are behind his opposition to
paving over yet more farmland. A highway through the middle of the
peninsula will diminish the air quality along its length and he much prefers
widening the QEW because most people who live in the urban sprawl along it, work in
Hamilton or even Oakville, he says.

Better yet would be a public transport rail line from Hamilton to Niagara
Falls or Fort Erie, he explains. He believes this will be a "totally
viable" proposition in four or five years.

A new highway will only draw more urban sprawl and more traffic, he says.

Building the mid-peninsula highway protects the tender fruit lands and
"I'm all for that," Kuret explains, but "below the escarpment developers are
buying up the land as fast as they can."

During last week's meeting in Welland, one man said he believes the road
is necessary for economic development in Southern Niagara, Eckersley said. The
other person speaking in favour of the highway was Mayor Vance Badawey of
Port Colborne, a staunch proponent because it would giver better access to
his city from the Toronto area.

Everyone else who spoke was opposed because they fear declining property
values, declining air quality, urban sprawl, decreased environmental
protection and other negatives.

One speaker believes the projected cost of $1.2 billion could be spent
better elsewhere.

Eckersley said the road would cut through a lot of woodlots, wetlands and
the Niagara Escarpment.

He said the Environmental Assessment for the proposed road goes to the
Minister of Transportation in March and he fears it will then be too late
to turn things around, said Eckersley.

"We don't think the ministry's needs assessment for the road is valid,
because it eliminated other options from the start," he says.

Instead, the ministry should spent more money on expanding public transit
to the region, says Eckersley.

It would be totally feasible to a rail line from south of the Hamilton
airport to either Fort Erie or Niagara Falls.

Widening the QEW will be at least half a billion dollars cheaper, he
explains.

But the ministry cannot get private-sector involvement for that, because
the road could not be turned into a toll road, whereas a new highway could,
just like Highway 407.

"Improving existing roadways would make a lot more sense," believes
Eckersley.

Running the roadway south of the escarpment would spare the tender fruit
lands, but "if they (MTO) consider the tender fruit lands, they should
also consider the unspoiled escarpment in Burlington," Eckersley says.



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