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TRANSPORTATION CONCERNS REMAIN

Posted: July 25, 2012

IKEA’s proposal to relocate the Plains Road retail store to a new location on the North Service Road in Burlington will require the city to work together with Halton Region and the Ministry of Transportation to make substantial transportation infrastructure adjustments. The proposed location, which is near the QEW Walkers Line exit, could require an estimated $10-20-million in infrastructure costs to make considerable changes to the highway on and off ramps, and possibly relocate the North Service Road.

Submitted to the city last March, the IKEA proposal would involve official plan and zoning by-law amendments and site plan approval for a new facility, which would be larger than the Plains Road location by 74 per cent. It is planned to accommodate a retail store, warehouse and Canadian corporate head office.

The city is eager to accommodate the company, as the staff report considered at this week’s budget and corporate services committee meeting noted, because “IKEA has long been known as a major Burlington destination. In fact, it is our largest tourism destination drawing [visitors] on a regular basis from Windsor to Buffalo and into Oakville.”

Further, the report suggests that the city could see significant fiscal benefit from development charges, planning and building permit fees as well as the new annual tax revenue. But what remains is to get the region and the MTO on board, says Burlington Economic Development executive director Kyle Benham. The MTO controls access of Walkers Line and North Service Road and as such, any roadway modifications require its approval. At yesterday’s budget and corporate services committee meeting, Benham and other city staff were directed to come up with a business plan by September that “nails down what [infrastructure] options we’re interested in, the costing of it, and the return we could see on investments.”

A short-term solution will be for Burlington to add dual left turning lanes off the QEW Walkers Line exit. While MTO staff members have agreed to this solution in principle, their cooperation is conditional on an appropriate long-term solution being identified.

“The distance between Walkers Line/North Service Road and the QEW westbound off -ramp is approximately 100 metres. The MTO is concerned that this distance is inadequate over the long term (post 2021) to prevent queue spill back between the intersections which could ultimately result in traffic backing up on the QEW off ramps,” notes the staff report.

In an email to NRU, MTO spokesperson Astrid Poei said that “from a technical perspective, MTO would support any long-term infrastructure improvements required as a result of the IKEA development as long as the improvements do not negatively impact our highway network, i.e., the QEW ramp terminals, the off – ramps and the QEW mainline.”

“If changes occur to the highway i.e. queuing, etc. as a result of development, it is the responsibility of the developer to cover the cost to mitigate those changes. We are in discussions with all the parties involved and are working towards options regarding this development,” Poei added. Despite the recent proposal, Benham said the city would need to make these kinds of roadway changes sooner or later to accommodate other developments.

“In many ways IKEA has just brought the issue to the forefront. This is actually just a larger issue than just IKEA. It’s really about our ability to have the capacity to develop a bunch of lands on the North Service Road corridor. IKEA is just the first in line of what we hope to be many—not necessarily retail operations, but of developments. So we’ve got to solve this problem also for the rest of that area.”

He also said that “IKEA has told us that [it] will participate and the question is to what extent.”