Mid-peninsula highway talks yield progress; MacIsaac still pushing for protection of Niagara Escarpment property

Fri 29 Aug 2003 - Burlington Post -Byline: Dennis Smith

The gridlock over the proposed mid-peninsula highway may be easing up.
Consensus has been reached on two of three key issues concerning the mid-peninsula transportation corridor, Burlington's mayor said yesterday.

"We've made very good progress although we haven't completely reached an agreement," said Rob MacIsaac. "But we've come a long way from when the former premier was standing in front of a highway map pointing to Burlington. Now we have five pages of amendments on the terms of reference."
Transportation Minister Frank Klees met with MacIsaac, Halton chair Joyce Savoline and Niagara and Hamilton officials yesterday to try and jump start mid-peninsula plans.

He said parties involved will continue communicating via e-mails, letters and telephone conferences, he said.

"We've agreed to provide our input within a week," said MacIsaac."We'll likely need to call a special council meeting in a week."
He said the meeting, which could be held next Friday, could determine where council wants to go on mid-peninsula negotiations.

The mid-peninsula project's key feature is a proposed highway between Niagara and Hamilton/Halton. The plan was stalled earlier this summer by protests by several parties.

City officials fear it will be connected to Hwy. 407 in Burlington.
Burlington and Halton filed a lawsuit over the plans, prompting the province to withdraw the Terms of Reference for its Environmental Assessment.
MacIsaac said there was agreement to establish an advisory group to allow for all stakeholders to have input as the process moved forward and to have rail and transit alternatives added into the Terms of Reference.
He said the third point still being negotiated is to ensure the Niagara Escarpment receives the appropriate level of protection in the Terms of Reference.

"Hopefully we will reach agreement on that," said MacIsaac. "We're doing all we can to advocate for no new cuts in the escarpment. We'll have to wait and see how we can maximize Burlington's interests."
The lawsuit has been held in abeyance, but there's no agreement yet to fully withdraw it, he said.

In the legal action, it was argued that unreasonable suggestions have been made for creating the mid-peninsula highway and the planning process has shown little regard for Halton residents' interests.
Ministry officials have described the project as the mid-peninsula transportation corridor and say it could include a new highway, transit way or both.

They have warned a highway may be needed to serve major increases forecast for population and traffic growth between Toronto and Niagara.
Four choices are being considered for the local connection with the mid-peninsula highway, including Hwy. 407 near Walker's Line, an expanded Hwy. 403 on Hamilton Mountain, Hwy. 401 west of Milton and Hwy. 6 in Flamborough.

Critics say the highway will be a toll road costing more than $1 billion that will damage the environment while failing to alleviate traffic congestion.


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