Province urged to keep up drive for highways
St. Catharines Standard - Kalvin Reid - Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Ontario, and Niagara in particular, canít afford to put a halt on highway
projects, says Niagaraís regional chair-elect.
For Peter Partington, proceeding is especially important because those
highway plans include a new swath cutting across the southern tier of
the peninsula and a 400-series highway connecting Port Colborne to the
"We have to carry on," he said in an interview Tuesday. "Our
proposed growth and our attractiveness as a place to live are not going
"We have to ensure Niagara remains as a crossroads of North America
and not a bottleneck."
The newly formed Ontario Smart Growth Network, a consortium of 39 environmentally
sensitive groups, has called on the government to put a moratorium on
all highway expansions and freeze all urban boundaries in an effort
to curb sprawl and preserve greenspaces and farmland.
They are also calling for greater investment in public transit options.
"It reflects a lot of what weíve been saying on the (mid-peninsula
highway) for a while," said Jason Thorne, executive director of
the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, a member group of the smart
growth network. "We need a broader approach to look at alternatives.
"Before we commit to spending a lot of money on big projects, letís
look at the big picture."
Partington said developing better public transit and expanding Ontarioís
highway network do not have to be exclusive initiatives.
They can be done in conjunction with one another.
"Itís the way it has to be," he said. "We have to have
a system for what we are now, a society dependent on moving goods and
people with trucks and cars.
"But looking down the road, we have to try where we can to implement
public transit, and that means bringing GO Transit to Niagara."
Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar indicated to The Canadian Press
the government has no intentions of putting a moratorium on highway
St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, the minister of tourism and recreation,
could not be reached for comment.
While disappointed with the governmentís dismissal, Thorne said Liberal
commitments to conduct a full environmental assessment for the mid-peninsula
highway and develop a Greater Toronto Area transit authority give him
cause for hope.
"The mid-pen is probably the most significant project on the books,"
"Most of them are expansions of existing highways, but the mid-pen
is the most expensive, biggest and most controversial.
"Itís not just CONE that is watching this one closely."
Partington has expressed clear support for the mid-peninsula highway
and the expansion of Highway 406 through Welland to Port Colborne.
Both were key tenets of the speech he delivered to regional councillors
prior to his election as chair last week, and he re-iterated his support
for them to reporters following his election.
Partington will be sworn in as chair Dec. 11.
"It is important to make sure we get it right and do it in an environmentally
sound manner," Partington said.
"But we canít afford to stop it. We have to continue."