Re: Tackling the tie-ups over the mid-peninsula highway;

Project supporters hope new council will press province to hit accelerator

November 9, 2006 edition

Having been involved in the Mid Peninsula Highway (MPH) and the Niagara to GTA Corridor processes, I read the article on the mid-peninsula highway with interest. As a co-chair of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE), I hope the newly elected council is up-to-date on the impact highways are having on our environment. The reality of climate change can’t be ignored any longer. Contribution to this problem can hardly be considered a “positive effect”. It’s time to give up on the highway fixation. 

Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment formed to stop the MPH and will continue to ensure a full and proper environmental assessment takes place for the Niagara to GTA corridor. Our information from the Ministry of Transportation is that this is a new process, needs will be assessed and ALL modes of transportation will be considered. 

My hope and expectation for all our elected politicians is that they:

Plan for innovative, sustainable modes of transportation.

Recognize that building highways is only an economic Shangri-La for short-term return. We can’t ignore the long-term costs of climate change any more.

Focus on the economic gains that sustainable transportation can bring to the region and province.

Don’t pay lip service to a full environmental assessment but show support through action. For example, rather than plotting the course for a “highway”, support consideration of ALL transportation options. 

Go further and lobby the provincial and federal governments to subsidize greener modes of transportation as they do highways, and level the transportation playing field.

Sincerely,

Susan McMaster
Co-Chair
Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment


Tackling the tie-ups over the mid-peninsula highway; Project supporters hope new council will press province to hit accelerator

Matthew VanDongen
St. Catharines Standard
Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's been a long road for the mid-peninsula highway.

The idea of building a major southern cousin to the QEW has persisted in Niagara since the 1970s.

In 2001, the then-Tory provincial government paved the way for a mid-peninsula highway with a fast-tracked environmental assessment. Citing environmental concerns, a new Liberal government consigned that plan to the asphalt heap.

The latest plan has a new Liberal name, the Niagara-GTA Trade Corridor, and an entirely new environmental assessment process that will look at rail and shipping, too.

Stage one of the assessment, slated to start in 2007, is expected to take at least two years.

Through it all, Niagara Region has supported the new highway.

But should a new council push the province harder to increase the speed limit of the approval process?

Patrick Gedge thinks so.

The chief executive officer of the Niagara Economic Development Corp. calls a new highway "absolutely pivotal" for the region's future.

"It will have a permanent, positive effect on the region's economy - on Ontario's economy," he said.

"Other types of transportation are important, too, but a highway is an integral component of our future economy."

Gedge doesn't oppose a full environmental assessment.

The last attempt to push the highway forward quickly was aborted in the face of environmental criticism.

"Everyone wants due diligence," he said. "But that doesn't mean the process can't be accelerated."

The province could dedicate more staff and resources to the environmental assessment, he said.

And if the province needs a push, regional and municipal politicians need to provide one.

Part of that push will come in an economic impact study on the corridor commissioned by the Region, due in January.

Regional politicians will also participate in discussions and hearings with provincial staff during the environmental assessment process.

"A lot is already being done," said Gedge. "That doesn't rule out more."

Regional politicians could also map out a preferred route for a future highway, said outgoing Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop.

He indicated he doesn't think it will happen, however.

"It's been discussed many times, but hasn't gone anywhere," he said. "Some councillors feel the EA would be tainted by (the Region) choosing a preferred route."

A new council also needs to attack provincial foot-dragging with a united front, Redekop said.

"With all the municipalities and the Region talking to the province together, you have that much greater impact in pushing the issue forward," he said.

Co-operation is difficult when others disagree with the goal, however.

Niagara Falls city council has voted to oppose the highway in the past.

The City of Burlington is adamantly against the construction of yet another major highway in its backyard.

The advocacy group Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment formed expressly to derail the highway project.

If protests seem muted now, it's only because opponents are pleased the province is examining other options, said Gracia Janes.

Janes, a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, said her group opposes the highway because it will destroy a huge swath of Niagara's agricultural and natural areas.

"They would be making the same mistake they made with the QEW," she said.

Janes said the group will eventually end up at council again to remind politicians that other options for transportation exist.

"To say that all councillors are of one voice on this issue, that's just not the case," she said.

 

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