Full environmental assessment should be done on new highway

The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara) Tue 07 Oct 2003 Byline: Jason Thorne

In your Sept. 27 editorial Get your act on the road, you wrote that a full environmental assessment for the mid- peninsula highway would result in unacceptable costs and delays. Instead, you support a scoped assessment in which the smart growth option -- combining improvements to existing roads, investment in transit, and transportation demand management -- would not be given any consideration.

The Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE) believes this highway is unnecessary. It would destroy our escarpment. Hundreds of acres of prime farmland would be lost to urban sprawl. Smog across the peninsula would worsen. Taxpayers would be out of pocket more than $1.2 billion, plus millions more in toll charges.

CONE believes the smart growth option is the better option. But we aren't asking anyone to take our word for it. CONE is willing to put our claims to the test as part of a full environmental assessment. Why are highway proponents not willing to do the same? If they are so sure their arguments are correct, what do they have to fear?

The existing needs assessment study is insufficient justification to cut off debate about smart growth solutions. The technical problems with that study are just too numerous.

The Niagara Escarpment Commission agrees. So do several affected municipalities. And, according to an April 2003 Oracle Poll, more than 82 per cent of Niagara residents also want to see the smart growth option examined before construction begins on a new highway. CONE believes scoping the assessment has nothing to do with saving time and money. Its purpose is really to guarantee a new highway gets built, whether or not a new highway is the best of all possible solutions.

The Liberal party promised, during the campaign, to hold a full environmental assessment and to examine the smart growth option. CONE looks forward to participating and we hope highway supporters will do the same.

Jason Thorne,

Executive Director

Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment Willow Street Acton



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