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Political blockage over future of Niagara corridor

By Kevin Werner
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP

Hamilton officials are hoping provincial Transportation Ministry officials can clear up an information traffic jam surrounding the proposed Niagara-to-Greater Toronto Area (NGTA) highway.

Flamborough politicians and city staff have been left scratching their heads for the last few months after activist groups have accused provincial officials of moving ahead with the project, even though ministry staff officially stated the process was put on hold.

Susan McMaster, of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment, recently told city politicians about how provincial officials have already seen the preferred recommendations for a new NGTA route through Flamborough, northern Burlington and Halton Region.

Hamilton councillors remained cautious on how to proceed on the issue. McMaster was surprised at the councillors’ response.

“Hamilton missed the significance (of the provincial decisions),” she said. “The train has left the station. It would have been appropriate for our mayor to meet with the minister. This has become a political issue.”

Ward 15 councillor Judi Partridge, though, said MTO officials have been asked by the city to attend a council meeting to explain what the province is doing about the project.

“We are hopeful to get them here in January,” said Partridge. “We are very concerned about what is happening. (MTO) officials have been keeping very quiet.”

On Dec. 3, city manager Chris Murray met with officials from surrounding municipalities, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Halton, Burlington and Peel, to discuss the proposed NGTA highway and its impacts. They shared information, and talked about the process, but Hamilton was left questioning the highway’s future, he said. MTO officials were not present at the meeting.

“We need to know where the process is at,” said Murray.

Ministry officials, claimed McMaster, have kept the public in the dark about the process.

“Everybody is concerned,” said McMaster. “It has become very murky. Nobody is saying anything.”

Asked to comment on the NGTA study, and possible preferred options that have been sent to the minister, representatives from Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli’s office referred all questions to MTO communications staff. Bob Nichols, of the MTO, noted the ministry is reviewing analytical information on the highway collected over the summer.

“As soon as the work has been completed and reviewed within MTO, the project team will update the project web site and schedule meetings to share the results with the stakeholders and public,” he said.

No timeline was provided as to when a preferred recommendation on the highway will be presented to the minister.

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