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Toll-free mid-peninsula highway
would be good for business

Bill Willson, My View 01/22/03 - Burlington Post

Business is watching with interest as the public consultation process continues over the Mid-Peninsula Transportation Corridor (MPTC).

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce has established a separate sub-committee to monitor and evaluate the process and to participate on the city's mid-peninsula transportation stakeholders advisory group.

A short while ago, our mayor wrote an article summarizing the city's concerns about the proposed transportation corridor and in particular about the MTO's original proposal for the highway to pass through Burlington and connect with Hwy. 407.

We concur with his view that there is a need for a comprehensive transportation strategy that includes transit in the area. We are waiting to see a comprehensive needs assessment that will support the solution that the MTO is proposing.

From a business perspective, the efficient movement of people and goods is crucial to the success of our economy. In fact, one of our members is a large manufacturer who told us they have an average of eight tractor trailers per day bringing in supplies and shipping finished products to customers. The manufacturer said that time is money to them so anything that will reduce the time it takes for these trucks to reach their destinations will help them. The highway congestion in southern Ontario is affecting business and future growth of our economy. It is in everyone's interest that the highway congestion issue is dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

Our chamber sub-committee recently sent a preliminary fax survey to its members on this topic. The results of this survey indicated that most of the businesses in Burlington believed that a new transportation corridor is currently needed in southern Ontario and that it would benefit them. Most felt that the new highway would benefit Burlington businesses.

When asked if the road should be a private toll road like Hwy. 407, the majority of respondents indicated that they would prefer a public corridor like Hwy. 401.

To fund this highway, the federal and provincial governments should consider dedicating at least a portion of the fuel tax they now collect to maintain and expand Canada's multi-modal transportation network. This revenue is now put into the government's general revenue accounts.

If this were to happen, then the MPTC would not have to be a toll road. By making it a free public highway, business and the general public would maximize its use and further alleviate the congestion crisis.

From the local chamber's point of view, we will continue to monitor progress of the MPTC terms of reference and environmental assessment.

We will consult with our colleagues in the neighbouring Chambers of Commerce.

We will also place this issue on the agenda of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce within the context of Smart Growth, which embraces transportation solutions as a priority.

Finally, we will continue to consult with our members on this important topic.

Bill Willson is president of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.