Proposed second highway through Niagara Region farmland draws fire
February 1, 2001
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - The mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont. is concerned that a proposed new highway tentatively planned to run parallel to the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) will hurt his city's tourist econo...
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – The mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont. is concerned that a proposed new highway tentatively planned to run parallel to the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) will hurt his city’s tourist economy.
Niagara Falls has not assumed an official position on the roadwork, which Ontario and the Niagara Region are currently assessing. (A report on the project is due out in the spring). City staff have also been asked to prepare a report on the expected effects of the highway on Niagara Falls.
Mayor Wayne Thomson said in a council meeting Jan. 8 that he favors development where it already exists, rather than having a six-lane QEW and a second highway artery along the top of the Niagara Escarpment.
“What we’re interested in is making sure the Queen E. is complete,” Thomson told local reporters. “We have an opportunity for four lanes each way.” His agenda is “to see the QEW complete, then the 406. Then some proper justification for any further transportation corridor.”
A second priority should be completing Hwy. 406 through to Port Colborne – located on the shores of Lake Erie – Thomson said.
Niagara Region Chair Debbie Zimmerman, who supports the new road concept, argued that Thomson’s position would not sidetrack the process.
“We are not going to overreact,” Zimmerman said. “We will keep moving forward with our study.”
Zimmerman is worried that the QEW already sees large volumes of heavy trucks and, if expanded, could ruin fruit lands. She believes a route through the region’s less developed land to the south would be a better location.
She countered the mayor by saying that tourism in Niagara Falls would be helped if commercial through-traffic ran a different route.
Tender fruit and grape lands are at a premium in Niagara and the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society has long been against any kind of development that would threaten them.
But the past-president of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society thinks the discussion is misguided. John Bacher said instead of new roadways, what needs to be developed is transportation alternatives.
“What seems to be driving a lot of the discussion for transportation improvements is trucking,” he said. “There should be a discussion of what modes of transport are appropriate to move freight around. The corridors are already existing,” he said.
“Expanding the QEW is not a matter of acquiring more land.” n
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