Headway made on mid-pen highway

Mayors reach accord to resolve unsettled issues.

Carmela Fragomeni -The Hamilton Spectator - August 30, 2003

The mayors of Hamilton and Burlington say agreements reached at a meeting with Transportation Minister Frank Klees should resolve outstanding issues in the province's contentious Niagara mid-peninsula highway proposal.

The meeting, held at the request of Niagara Regional Chairman Debbie Zimmerman, was to deal with Burlington's concerns. Burlington wants the province to conduct a full and proper environmental assessment of the proposal, and to give assurances the highway will not cut through the Niagara Escarpment in Burlington.

Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac said all parties -- the province, Hamilton, Burlington, Halton Region and Niagara Region -- agreed to think about heightening the level of protection accorded the Niagara Escarpment in the proposed route. They also agreed to more public input and to give proper consideration of alternatives to the highway, such as public transit and rail.

MacIsaac, however, said Burlington is not dropping its court challenge until the issues are resolved to its satisfaction. "We are intent on locking in the things most important to Burlington prior to signing off on anything," he said. But he believes "significant movement" was made.

He is pleased a new advisory committee is being formed on the highway proposal. He said it is akin to the one which worked on the controversial plan to allow housing developments in the Oak Ridges Moraine north of Toronto.

Hamilton Mayor Bob Wade said he was "reasonably pleased on how we got along." It appeared there was a resolution on the wording on the terms of reference, he said.

Niagara regional chairman Debbie Zimmerman, a big proponent of the highway and anxious to see the project move along, said, "The main issue is we're moving forward."

She said a bigger issue is that important features like tender fruitlands and the Escarpment need to be protected.


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