The province is quietly studying routes for the first leg of a controversial mid-peninsula highway that would pave a new asphalt path through Flamborough or Burlington.
But the study is also looking at alternatives such as widening Highway 6 or an expansion of parts of Highway 403 that would stack multi-lane levels atop each other.
The ambitious paving proposals are part of the latest phase of a seven-year environmental assessment of the mid-peninsula highway, a long-planned corridor meant to link the GTA and the border via south Niagara.
The Liberal government announced in 2010 the full 130-kilometre highway wouldn’t be needed before 2031 — if ever. But highway opponents were surprised to learn recently that studies continue on portions of a new asphalt corridor in Hamilton and Burlington.
“It’s a nasty surprise for people,” said Monte Dennis, a member of the Stop the Highway Coalition. “I mean, the transportation minister came to town one day and seemingly canned the highway and everyone walked away happy. Now we have to wake people up, because this isn’t over.”
An environmental assessment map now shows four broad-brush highway “corridors” that could link the GTA to Highway 403 near Jerseyville. It also outlines potential expansions of Highway 6 North and Highway 403 — including “stacked” lane levels that would see motorists driving on top of each other between Burlington and Jerseyville.
While the provincial Liberals effectively kiboshed the idea of building a full mid-peninsula highway in 2010, the Opposition Tories have promised to resurrect the plan.
Regardless, the Ministry of Transportation has always intended to finish an environmental assessment evaluating all options, including transit, new and expanded highways, said spokesperson Bob Nichols.
“(The ministry) has been clear that removing an option from the EA would mean restarting it — not something we can afford to do as congestion risks crippling the economy,” he said in an email.
Nichols stressed there are no “preferred options” yet for new or expanded highways in the Hamilton area. He said the public had a chance to comment on a draft transportation development strategy last year, but public meetings will be scheduled to share the latest results of the project team’s study of highway options.
The project website says a public review period is supposed to occur late this year.
Three of the four proposed new corridors show highways cutting north through Flamborough and the ecologically sensitive Beverley Swamp to hook up with Highway 401 on either side of the Highway 6 junction. The corridors also pass through or near Hamilton hamlets such as Rockton, home of the historic world’s fair and Westover, a hub for major gas and oil pipelines.
One of the potential corridors appears to include the Flamborough farm of Councillor Robert Pasuta.
“That’s a lot of valuable farmland they’re looking at,” he said. “My hope would be they’d focus on widening existing highways.”
The fourth corridor under study cuts northeast from Jerseyville, through Burlington to hook up with Highway 407.
That city’s council is already girding for a renewed battle, said Mayor Rick Goldring.
“We have great concerns about any new highway running through north Burlington, whatever you call it,” said Goldring, who is urging residents to attend an information meeting Oct. 23 in Burlington between 7 and 9 p.m. at the Mainway Recreation Centre.
Dennis said his coalition of environmental groups generally opposes any highway that “further carves up the Niagara Escarpment.”
But he also said the province owes “some certainty” to landowners in Flamborough and north Burlington who fear expropriation.
“This cloud has been hanging over their heads forever.”
905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec
Original article found here http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/818076–the-highway-that-never-dies on thespec.com