Initial steps under way for Niagara-GTA transport study

Almost 90 residents learn about future EA at Rockton information centre
Dianne Cornish
Apr 22, 2005

"This is a whole new animal," Ministry of Transportation (MTO) information officer Will MacKenzie said last week while explaining the process of a full Environmental Assessment (EA) that will define and verify transportation problems and solutions within the Niagara/Hamilton/Halton area.

MacKenzie, a Flamborough resident, made the comment at a Public Information Centre in Rockton last Wednesday, where close to 90 area residents viewed display boards explaining the EA Terms of Reference (ToR) that outline the framework for completing the future EA study.

Public input on the ToR was being sought at the informal drop-in event, one of six such meetings held throughout the Niagara/Hamilton/Halton area over the past two weeks.

The EA study, which is expected to begin next year, will differ markedly from the process undertaken two years ago when public opposition swelled over a scoped, or narrower, EA which seemed to be heading toward the construction of a major roadway between Fort Erie and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The 130-kilometre route, called the Mid Peninsula Transportation Corridor (MPTC), was to cross through much of rural Flamborough on its way to the GTA.

"This is not the MPTC," one of the display boards told onlookers. The EA for the Niagara to GTA project will include "new work" on identifying transportation problems and addressing them, including consideration of various transportation options.

MacKenzie said the preferred solution could be improvements to a combination of transportation modes, including freight, rail, roads, transit and marine. "We're looking at all options," he said.
After Burlington council took legal action against the former Tory provincial government over the process being followed, plans for the MPTC ground to a standstill.

A provincial election brought in a Liberal government, which pledged to do a full EA on transportation solutions for the area.

MacKenzie said people attending the recent public sessions are "more supportive" of following a full EA where "we are looking at everything." But Rockton area resident Richard Roung, whose background includes working as a civil engineering technologist, isn't convinced the more expanded study will reach a different conclusion.

He told the Review that the government gave in to public pressure in agreeing to have a full EA. "I believe they'll look at all the options but not pay much attention to some of them," he said.

Roung said he also believes there is a need for another highway to accommodate the transportation demands for the increased population growth projected for the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. "I expect the Mid-Peninsula Highway will eventually go through, maybe under a new name," he predicted.

However, the Flamborough resident feels the longer study period carries some advantages. It will give government officials more time "to plan the highway properly, before the houses get here," he said. He hopes part of that planning includes planting trees near the preferred route early so that they can filter out some of the increased air pollution that will come with a new major freeway.

Dave Kaley, another Rockton area resident, said he attended the information meeting because he's curious about the planning process being followed. "I want to know exactly what they're doing," he said, adding that previous discussions surrounding a possible Mid-Peninsula Highway alarmed him because he doesn't see the sense of connecting a major freeway with a toll highway (Hwy. 407 near Burlington) as was previously proposed as one of the most popular options.

His recommendation to project officials is to abandon any consideration of building a highway through Flamborough farmland. "Go west of Rockton where the land is rocky," he suggested.
Like Roung, Kaley doesn't hold out too much hope that other transportation modes will win out against a proposal for a new highway when the EA study reaches the decision stage. "You can get a truckload of garbage into Michigan and dumped before you can get a train out of Toronto," he said.

Studies have already determined that the existing transportation network is not capable of supporting the projected population growth in the area, along with the attendant growth in employment, trade and tourism. Within the next 25 years, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is expected to grow from its current population of 7 million to more than 11 million. Seventy-five per cent of the new growth (about three million people) is projected to occur in the GTA and Hamilton.
To facilitate further public input on the EA process, the review period and comment deadline on the draft ToR has been extended to May 6.

Copies of the draft and an opportunity to comment on it can be found on the project's Web site, www.niagara-gta.com.

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