Dec 17, 2003 - Dennis Smith
- The Burlington Post
News that the proposed mid-peninsula highway will get a full environmental
assessment is being greeted with cautious optimism locally.
A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson confirmed the province
has committed to a full EA for the proposal, which includes a
highway between Niagara and Hamilton/Halton.
"Ministry staff have been instructed to review the environmental
and public consultation work done to date, then it will move forward,"
said Will Mackenzie.
He could not estimate how long the work would take or when the
EA would start.
The project was halted last summer when Burlington and Halton
filed a lawsuit over mid-peninsula planning, arguing there were
unreasonable suggestions for the highway, with little regard for
Halton residents' interests.
Local officials fear the new road will be connected to Hwy. 407
near Walker's Line.
Transportation minister Harinder Takhar made the EA commitment
recently after being questioned in the provincial legislature.
Burlington councillor John Taylor was pleased, with a few reservations.
He said it's important Halton officials and others interested
examine the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment.
"We need to ensure it's a full EA that includes a needs assessment
and looks at alternate means of transportation in a more complete
way than the first study did and sets up evaluation criteria in
a fairer way than the first proposal did," said Taylor.
He said the government should go right back to the beginning
with a full EA.
"That's my definition of a full environmental assessment and
I'm delighted to see the minister calling for a full EA as well,"
The vice-chair of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment said
the minister's commitment is a positive step overall.
"The full EA means they'll look at all the options, include railway
versus highway," said Sue McMaster. "But we're still looking to
see a more global approach to transportation in Ontario."
COPE opposes any new highways on the Niagara Escarpment. However,
McMaster notes there's a strong push from Niagara to move ahead
with the mid-peninsula highway.
"But there's a 30-year horizon here, so we can put a bit of consideration
into this," she said. "We need to consider everyone's interests,
including Niagara, Burlington and Halton."
McMaster said COPE members have requested a meeting with the
transportation minister and other new political players.
"You can never relax with these type of things," she said.
Besides Hwy. 407, other possible linkups for the proposed highway
include an expanded Hwy. 403 on Hamilton Mountain, Hwy. 401 west
of Milton and Hwy. 6 in Flamborough.