HAMILTON, Ont. — The Ontario Tories say they’ll extend the Red Hill Creek Expressway southward in time to meet the proposed $1.5 billion super highway that would run from Fort Erie to Burlington.
Transportation Minister Brad Clark says extending the expressway from its proposed southern end on the east Mountain in the Hamilton area to the mid-peninsula corridor in Glanbrook would help divert more trucks off the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and ease threats to Niagara’s tender-fruit lands.
If the expressway was not extended, Clark said U.S. trucks travelling to Hamilton’s industrial core would have to loop around Hamilton on the corridor — touted as a NAFTA route the highway may yet end up being tolled — and hook up on the QEW in Burlington. The only other option would be for them to simply access the QEW via Hwy. 406, which runs from Welland to St. Catharines.
“That wouldn’t keep them off the QEW,” Clark told the New York-Ontario economic summit in Buffalo. “Quite clearly, one of the issues that would have to be studied … is the potential for that connection to the Red Hill Creek Expressway — It’s vitally important.”
The expressway, which has been debated for 40 years, is currently on pause thanks to a court battle between Environment Canada and the city of Hamilton. Ottawa is challenging the federal court ruling that allowed the project to move forward without a federal environmental assessment.
It could take more than a year before a court decision is known. The Red Hill Expressway is designed to connect with the Lincoln Alexander Parkway running east-west across the Hamilton Mountain.
The extension of the expressway will be studied during the environmental assessment process for the mid-peninsula corridor, which was announced by Clark and Premier Mike Harris earlier this week.
The assessment, design and land acquisition stage for the corridor could take seven years and construction after that could take three years. Clark says he anticipates the expressway link would be complete by 2011 to coincide with the opening of the corridor.