In conference with Premier: Any Escarpment road is on hold – while they continue to study. Is the public going to be in on those studies?

By Pepper Parr

While it might be Toronto doing all the howling about transit and grid lock, Premier Kathleen Wynne understands that it is people from Burlington and surrounding communities that clog the QEW – and it is no longer just during the rush hours.

As part of a reach out program the Premier held a conference call with area media and took questions from about ten of us – the focus was to be on HGTA – Hamilton Greater Toronto Area, and its transit issues.

During the last provincial election Wynne, who was Minister of Transportation at the time,  told the political Pooh-Bahs that she wanted her transportation thinkers to see beyond roads – a view shared by many in the community.  At the time the focus on the community activists was to ensure that there was no road through the Escarpment and they have succeeded in putting a stop to the development of any actual plans to build a road.

There didn’t appear to be much attraction in this photo taken during the provincial election. Wynne, on the right, went on to become Premier of the province and Burlington wants to know now more than ever what her transit priorities really are.

The thinking at the MOT was always conceptual but that kind of thinking tends to end up with a surveyor out in a field with instruments measuring where a road might go.  We won’t see anything like that for the next five years but that infamous map with that green arrow in it is still in one of their files somewhere and it is still in the Region’s  Official Plan.  And as long as that arrow is there – it’s a real option.

That yellow arrow pointing to where an Escarpment highway could go is still in the Region’s Official Plan.

During the conference call this morning the Premier said that studies were still taking place at the Ministry – we already knew that – and that she wants her people to look at all the options.  There are people in the community who are not yet convinced that all the options are being looked at – and that what in now the Ministry of Transportation –  was once the Ministry of Highways – has not yet gotten beyond seeing the problem as roads and the solution as more roads.

Wynne said her commitment to transit was “rock solid” and mentioned her time in Holland where it was more convenient to ride a bike that drive a car.  “Change will take place” she said “when it is convenient to take public transit.”  Throughout the conference call the Premier talked about how all the needs are going to be paid for and added that the government has not been consistent in providing funds for the ongoing needs. “We are playing catch up now” she said.

How we pay for that “catching up” is a major concern for this government.  “My fear” said the Premier “is that we have a lot of projects out there but we don’t have the funding for them in place yet.

Road tolls have been mentioned, parking at the GO stations – these are now called “tools” that can be used to raise funds to pay for projects.  One reporter asked if an increase to the provincial income tax was in the works and went on to suggest this was a more progressive way to raise the funds as opposed to the more regressive fees and flat taxes that have been discussed.

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3 comments to In conference with Premier: Any Escarpment road is on hold – while they continue to study. Is the public going to be in on those studies?

  • Chris Ariens

    Interesting that she mentioned that in Holland, it is more convenient to ride a bike than to drive a car. Believe it or not, it wasn’t always that way. The Dutch are actually not a different species from us here in North America. In the early 1970’s, they came to the realization that they didn’t have the space, or the funding for everyone to use a car for every trip. So they took a look at their transportation system and identified the most efficient, most fiscally conservative way for people to get around on their own schedules, and made it easier for everyone to use that method of transportation.

    In the 2000’s, in the GTA we have come to much the same point as the Dutch did. We have no more space to build highways, unless we destroy our most beautiful natural areas, nor do we have the funding. Lets hope that we have the capability to learn from their experience, and start to build a cycling network that puts the Dutch one to shame. Imagine if 20 or 30% of the cars we see every day were bicycles, how much easier it would be to get around this city by whatever method we choose.

    • James Smith

      Good call Chris. I have clients in Downtown Toronto and 12 years ago I drove most of the time, but the more I took Burlington Transit, the GO Train & the street car, the more I liked it. I then started walking from Union Station. I knew of 1 person who used a bicycle in T.O. then. but 12 years later bike use has exploded (Messers Ford notwithstanding).
      Now my bus has been cancelled, so I’m forced to drive in the winter. But I can bike in the summer, if I can get sheltered bike parking that is.

  • James Smith

    This should not confuse me but it does. I did not support MS Wynne for leader but attended the Liberal Christmas party where she went on.
    And on.
    And on.
    And on, about a lot of stuff. Then in reply to a question from a former MPP she was pretty clear:
    No new highway.
    No new highway through the escarpment.
    Build transit not highways.
    So why the double talk now? It was simple then, it was simple now.

    ” Highway? Way don’t neeed no steeekeen HIGHWAY!”