Highway delays stretch patience: Zimmerman wants meeting to discuss holdup in environmental assessment

The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara) Wed 16 Jul 2003 -- By: Kalvin Reid

THOROLD - Debbie Zimmerman is losing patience with delays to the mid-peninsula highway project and she wants a meeting with Transportation Minister Frank Klees to discuss the holdups.

In a letter dated July 11, Niagara Region's chair has requested a meeting with Klees, Hamilton Mayor Bob Wade, Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac and Halton Region Chair Joyce Savoline to discuss the issues delaying the environmental assessment for the highway.

"I want to sit down with the minister and all the parties to find out what the problems are," Zimmerman said Tuesday.

Under the threat of legal action from Burlington and Halton, the ministry withdrew the terms of reference for the highway's environmental assessment and intends to address concerns raised by the municipalities.

It is the latest in a series of delays faced by the highway, which was announced by then-premier Mike Harris in June 2001.

Zimmerman said Niagara's position on the highway, as well as that of Hamilton, has been lost in the shuffle as the ministry has focused its efforts on the Burlington area.

"It has been a protracted process to say the least," she said. "We have

readily accepted the delays hoping they would clear up some of the concerns. "We've been more than patient."

Several questions are still floating around the conceptual highway, including where exactly it will run and if it will be a toll road.

But those are questions that will be answered during the assessment. It is impossible to answer them before that process is under way.

"We've been precluded from having an EA process because of the diatribe of Burlington," Zimmerman said. "If we don't get to that EA, none of these things will ever be discussed."

During a meeting of Niagara's transportation strategy steering committee Tuesday, St. Catharines Regional Councillor Mike Collins said he is noticing increased highway gridlock around Niagara and it is a sight he does not like, suggesting it will damage the local tourist industry. "It's spoiling the quality of the experience for the visitor," he said, adding he would be in favour of tolls on the road if that's what it takes to get it built.

A sticking point in moving the highway forward has been the question surrounding whether or not there is a need for a second highway through Niagara.

Burlington had wanted to revisit that, but Niagara feels it was addressed in the Niagara Peninsula Transportation Needs Assessment released by the province in June 2001.

"Their issue is transit," said Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey. "Our issue is trade."

Regional transportation director Joe Cousins said the highway is a classic case of NIMBY -- Not In My Backyard.

"People in north Burlington just don't want that highway there in any way, shape or form," he said, adding he thinks the ministry did the right thing to withdraw the terms of reference and avoid litigation.

"Eventually, the people there are going to run out of excuses. The unfortunate part is it is delaying the process unnecessarily."

Contact COPE:

©copyright 2002 - 2012 COPE

The COPE website was updated October 30, 2012
Website design and hosting by Virtual Image Hamilton: