By Dianne Cornish
Rockton area resident Sue McMaster wants Hamilton city council to follow the lead of Burlington council and Halton regional council in vigorously opposing the Ontario government’s plans to build a highway that will slice across rural Flamborough connecting Highway 403 in Ancaster to either the 407 in north Burlington or the 401 near Guelph or Campbellville. All three options remain on a map released in May by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) as it considers ways of relieving traffic congestion between Niagara Region and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
To bring Hamilton council up to date on the issue, the longtime opponent to the Niagara to GTA corridor and co-chair of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) will address council’s general issues committee next Wednesday morning. She plans to impress upon council the importance of being proactive on the highway proposal.
“Burlington and Halton have been in an uproar over this, but Hamilton has been eerily quiet,” she said. “Hamilton (city council) has been behind the eight ball on this,” she charged, noting that the project planning is at “a pivotal stage.”
Halton regional chair Gary Carr and Burlington mayor Rick Goldring met with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli on Oct. 24 to relay their constituents’ opposition to the proposed plan to put a superhighway through the sensitive escarpment lands and farmland of north Burlington.
Chiarelli told the two-man delegation that he shares their concerns about the options being considered for the new route and, according to the regional chairman, is “committed to looking at other options and solutions.” The minister also said that the recommendation from the Environmental Assessment (EA) on the project will not be presented until the first quarter of next year.
McMaster said Hamilton’s mayor Bob Bratina should also seek an audience with Minister Chiarelli to express Hamilton’s concerns about the loss of irreplaceable Flamborough farmland and trumpet the use of other measures to accommodate increased traffic, such as bolstering transit in the GTA, expanding existing infrastructure and investigating rail options.
“We need to send a message to the Minister that this (a new highway) is a bad idea,” McMaster said. “It costs 90 per cent less to build a rail line than to build a highway, ”she stressed.
Carr told the Review Tuesday that he is encouraged by Chiarelli’s commitment to look at options other than a highway that would cut through farmland and natural heritage areas in north Burlington. But McMaster remains unconvinced that MTO staff will back away from the original plan to build the highway through rural Flamborough and Burlington to connect with the 407.
Carr said ministry staff hasn’t made a decision on the EA yet, but when they do, Minister Chiarelli has the final say on whether to proceed with the recommendation. In light of the conversation that he and Goldring had with the minister, Carr feels Chiarelli is genuinely interested in looking at other ways, besides building highways, to alleviate gridlock in the area.