A Commentary by Doug Draper
The Burlington Skyway has finally been re-opened, just in time for the work week following the August 2nd to 4th holiday weekend in Ontario, but not before die-hard proponents for a “mid-peninsula highway’ argue for the need for it again.
According to an August 2nd story in The Hamilton Spectator, at least a couple of elected members of that city’s council pointed to an incident that saw a dump truck, with its bucket up, slamming into the Skyway’s structure and shutting it down for the better part of four days as a reason for an “alternative” highway to keep all that QEW traffic unsnarled.
To quote a few lines from The Spectator story; “Two city councillors, Sam Merulla and Brad Clark, argued Friday the crash is a reminder of the need for a controversial, long-planned mid-peninsula highway.”
“Clark argued in an email to a resident the city will see traffic “chaos” more frequently without an alternate corridor that runs from the border to GTA via Hamilton.” The Specator story continued. “Merulla agreed. ‘This really brings into focus how we’re held hostage by a single incident on a single transportation corridor,’ he said.”
Apparently there are still political relics from the 20th century out there who just can’t give up on the unimaginative idea of constructing g a large swath of asphalt above the Niagara Escarpment – right through some of the best farm country in Niagara, Ontario, and through woodlots, wetlands and other environmentally significant features along the way. In fairness to Hamilton, Niagara has some of those political relics here too who insist on reprising the mid-peninsula highway idea many of the rest of us keep hoping is, for all time, a tumor in remission.
The idea of constructing this alternative highway to the QEW was conceived and most forcibly pushed , possibly to few peoples’ surprise, during the 1990s when former Ontario premier Mike Harris and his neo-cons were running the province and doing everything they could to gut environmental reviews and other programs that stood in the way of their 1950s, black-and-wide revison of economic growth.
It was an already retrograde idea from the years of mid-20th Century, Robert Moses-style road concruction when it was first conceived a decade and a half ago and it is an even more awful idea now for a number of reasons, including a few I list below.
First of all, cutting a new multi-lane, 400-series highway across Niagara between the Hamilton area and Canada/U.S. border crossing near Buffalo would, as I have already mentioned, destroy more of what little we have left of our farm country and green spaces.
Further to that, as history across this continent has shown time and time again, you can’t build another major highway route withoug soon attracing strip malls, large malls, and other low density growth along it, cementing over even more of what we have left of our green lands.
And further to all that, if you care about keeping spending under control in this province, constructing this new highway, even if a private partner were found to share in the expense, would cost billions of dollars that we don’t have at the moment unless you are willing to accept a sizable hike in your income taxes, along with toll fees to use this route.
Finally, why continue to perpetuate a cycle of building more highways, which encourages more car traffic, which means building more highways, encouraging more cars, etc., etc., etc., well into the 21st century?
Why can’t Neanderthals like Clark and others consider other alternatives, like expanding Go train and bus services into the Hamilton, Niagara area, encouraging more carpooling and planning communities that make it more attractive for people to live closer to where they work and play? It is beyond their capacity to think through a vision for a 21st century future, apparently
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them might also want to now use extraordinary flash floods that incapacitated a section of the QEW in the Burlington area this August 4th as one more reason why need an “alternative highway.” It might never occur to them that the increasing volumes of high carbon transportation they seek too accommodate well in to the 21st century might be contributing to climatic conditions resulting in these severe storms to begin with.
We have municipal elections across Ontario this October. Let’s all of us wake up and focus on defeating any and all of the last-century, no-vision-for-the-future people still clogging up seats, like cars bogged down in gridlock, on our municipal councils.
(Share your views on this post below. Please know that we only post comments by people who are willing to go on the line and share their real name.)
So why not re-task that amazing tunnel boring machine in Niagara Falls to a Lake Ontario tunnel? Can we do it? You be the judge:
Lake Ontario distance = 32 miles. “Chunnel” distance = 31.4 miles.
Chunnel lays 790 feet below sea level (50-75m below the seabed). In the Niagara Basin, a similar bore with 75m under the lake bed would require a bore of about 700 feet below lake level.
Maybe there are other reasons it couldn’t be done – like perhaps people unwilling to pay 407-like fees… or poor geology – but the technology is certainly there.
aTo Dave Drobitch: My partner suggested something along a similar idea back when the original Mid-Pen study was under way. Her idea was a tunnel between the north end of the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton and the southern end of Burloak Drive on the Burlington/Oakville border. Her idea was a submerged tunnel (concrete tubes built on land then floated to position and sunk into place) rather than a bored tunnel.
The engineers shot the idea down because there is a fault line running out into Lake Ontario from Burlington Bay/Hamilton Harbour.
They would not answer questions about why the Pickering nuclear power plant was built on top of another fault line that intersects with the other one out in the middle of Lake Ontario.
(A Niagara At Large Footnote – Will MacKenzie is a former senior communications officer with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation who was well versed in the details of plans for the mid-peninsula highway.)
VERY interesting, Will — thanks for posting this!
There are already too many highways and roads, other than perhaps better linkages between Niagara South and Niagara North … need to focus more on public transit and rail freightways, as well as the use of our canal for shipping.
Did the same people against the highway concern them selves when farmers could NOT make a living and gave up their rights to the corrupt green act (turbines)?
So — is there actually an argument here? Like, big highways support local agriculture? No, I didn’t think so. In fact, those of us who don’t want more of Niagara’s rapidly-disappearing green spaces paved over for the sake of increasing motor traffic are also those who shop at local farmers’ markets. Yes, our small farmers can’t make a living, but that has nothing to do with either renewable energy or highways — it has everything to do with the fact that Canadian consumers have learned to buy cheap imported foods, not understanding that this drives our own agriculturalists out of business. If you must blame something, blame free trade.