Burlington doesn't like new highway proposals

Sep. 12, 01:00 EDT

Provincial analysis deeply flawed, city says
Kate Harries
A plan for a highway across the Niagara Peninsula, linking Fort Erie to Highway 407, has received a failing grade from the city of Burlington.

"We feel there's inadequate justification provided and documented by the province for the Halton end of the mid-peninsula corridor," Tom Eichenbaum, the city's engineering director, told a crowd of more than 400 who turned out Tuesday to hear the city's analysis of a provincial study of the need for the project.

Eichenbaum said that Ontario's Ministry of Transportation has assumed a population growth in Burlington that's greater than the capacity currently projected in the city's official plan.

In addition, he said, the projected growth patterns are based on historic trends rather than the Smart Growth planning that has been initiated by the province.

And, he said, the public transit share of traffic has been understated given present Smart Growth principles.

Tyrone Gan of iTrans Consulting, retained by the city and Halton Region to do a peer review of the needs assessment study, outlined his concerns about the way the ministry has defined the problem:

It focuses too narrowly on deficiencies in traffic capacity without examining broader issues of public transport and traffic management, which includes moving jobs to where people reside.

It assumes that the proportion of traffic carried by public transit will remain constant over the next 30 years.

It does not factor in the effect of future road improvements.

It excludes consideration of environmental criteria from its initial needs assessment.

Its calculations are based on a toll-free highway, and there has been no examination of what effect a decision to add a toll might have on usage.

Peninsula highway will relieve traffic on QEW, province says

There was also criticism of the fact that the ministry has started work on the terms of reference for an environmental assessment before it has finished getting public input on its needs assessment.

The consultants stressed that it's essential that the terms of reference provide for examination of a range of routes through Burlington.

But citizens who spoke at the meeting didn't seem interested in hearing about different routes.

"We don't want alternative corridors, we want alternative modes of transportation," said Flamborough resident Sue McMaster, a member of the 900-member Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE). "We do not want more roads."

Burlington Councillor John Taylor agreed. "A new highway has to be a last resort," he said. "We should give transit a chance first."

Even Tourism Minister Cam Jackson, Tory MPP for the area, conceded that public opinion is against the project. "We can't find anybody who thinks it's really a great idea to run a highway through the Niagara Escarpment," he said, adding that more work needs to be done.

"I feel that the current study area is too narrow," Jackson said.

The $1.2 billion project is intended to relieve pressure on the Queen Elizabeth Way.

After public opposition started to build following public information sessions held by the ministry during the summer, Burlington Mayor Rob McIsaac and Halton Region chair Joyce Savoline wrote to Transport Minister Norm Sterling asking for more time to deal with the needs assessment study.

In an Aug. 29 reply, Sterling said he will stick to his current schedule, although discussion of the needs assessment will not be closed off after information sessions to be held later this month in Welland, Hamilton and Burlington.

Tourism Minister Cam Jackson said he has already spoken with Transportation Minister Norm Sterling and got his commitment that "we will re-evaluate all of the alternative study areas or corridors raised by the public in our consultation sessions and will consider them for inclusion in the proposed study area."


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