Province gives nod to full mid-pen EA

Dec 19, 2003 - Dennis Smith - Special to the Flamborough Review

News that the proposed mid-peninsula highway will receive a full environmental assessment is being greeted with optimism by some of the road's critics.

Transportation minister Harinder Takhar made the EA commitment recently after being questioned in the provincial legislature.

Sue McMaster, spokesperson for Citizens Opposed to the Niagara Escarpment, said the announcement is welcome news for those who wanted options other than a new highway considered to ease the area's traffic gridlock.

"I think it's good news they're keeping their election promise," said the Troy resident, one of about 1,000 citizens who banded together in a grassroots bid to oppose the proposed road that could cut through Flamborough farm and escarpment land if built.

A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson confirmed recently that the province has committed to a full EA for the proposal, which includes a highway from Niagara to 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.

A full EA would mean looking at if the project is needed at all, said McMaster, as well as alternatives such as rail links.

Though the group has not yet met with the province's new transportation minister, McMaster said she is hopeful that the province will conduct the EA as promised.

"We have no reason to believe it will not," she said, noting a full EA would delay the project, possibly for years.

"The original highway was supposed to have a 30-year timeline," she said. "So what's another couple of years?" 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.

Burlington councillor John Taylor was pleased, with a few reservations. He said it's important to 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," he said.

He feels 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," he said.

McMaster said she wasn't surprised at the Liberal promise, noting, "There had been enough opposition" to make the call for a full EA a reasonable one.

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.




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