Burlington awaits word on mid-pen

September 6, 2003 - Carmela Fragomeni The Hamilton Spectator

Burlington council is stymied by a lack of written response from the Ministry of Transportation over agreements on the proposed mid-peninsula highway.

The city has put on hold its court action against the province after the ministry appeared willing to meet Burlington's demands. Transportation Minister Frank Klees agreed on Aug. 28 to some of them, but the city wants it in writing.

Mayor Rob MacIsaac said the ministry promised to give the written agreements to the city a week ago, just before the election was called.

"We've been calling them every day and they always say 'tomorrow,'" MacIsaac said. He doesn't believe the election call has caused the delay. Ministry staff have offered no explanation for it. Councillor Mike Wallace said he doesn't think the city will get the documents or see much action on them during the election.

Transportation ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols said staff have been working on the documents and the city should have it early in the week.

Burlington has been trying to live up to the minister's request to move expeditiously on formally approving the proposed agreements. Council this week hastily held public information sessions and a special council meeting to review and approve the agreements in principle.

The agreements reached between Burlington, the minister, the City of Hamilton, and Niagara and Halton regions centre on revising the province's study approach to the highway.

Burlington residents have longstanding concerns it will bring more traffic, more pollution, destroy treasured natural features like the Niagara Escarpment, and force growth and development into the city's rural area.

Two key demands from Burlington remain unresolved. They are: protect the escarpment in Burlington from any highway route; and conduct a full environmental assessment to determine if the highway is needed and if so, where it should go.

There was agreement only that highway crossings of the escarpment will be a last resort. There is still no full environment assessment, but the smaller version has been expanded to include studies and alternatives to the highway, such as public transit improvements and rail transportation.

However, a major sticking point is that the Tory election platform includes a promise to build the mid-pen.


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