By Kevin Werner, News Staff
A few days after Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina touted the benefits of building a new southern highway from Fort Erie to Hamilton, Ontario’s Transportation Ministry blew up the idea the Liberals would ever support such a project.
“The Mid-Pen is the most ridiculous idea,” said Glen Murray, transportation and infrastructure minister who spoke to about 100 people at Sarcoa restaurant on the waterfront Feb. 28 hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
Murray told reporters that every traffic study has revealed building a so-called superhighway at a projected cost of about $1.3 billion in 2001 is “a complete waste of money.”
He said the transportation ministry’s preferred option, released last fall, is “the right way to go” and will help to alleviate traffic congestion.
Murraywas joined in his opposition to a Mid-Pen highway by Liberal cabinet minister Ted McMeekin.
“We are not going there,” he said in agreement.
The preferred option to help alleviate traffic problems between Hamilton and Niagara includes widening theQueen Elizabeth Way to eight lanes, including high occupancy vehicle lanes, and widening Highway 6 near the airport, and Highway 403. The plan is projected to accommodate the traffic demands through 2031.
Bratina, though, has argued that widening the QEW will create traffic chaos, and prevent local businesses in Stoney Creek andHamiltonfrom exporting their goods to theUnited Statesin a timely manner.
He recently told a group of people at a Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce luncheon that rejecting the Niagara to GTA highway “doesn’t seem sensible to us.”
“Can you imagine all the companies along the South Service Road (during construction of the QEW)?” said Bratina. That highway widening could take up to seven years to complete, he said.
“(The Mid-Pen) has been endorsed by council,” said Bratina. “The province has a different view.”
Bratina has helped to create a group of municipalities from Halton, Niagara, Peel, and Waterloo to lobby the provincial government to reverse the transportation ministry’s study,
Hamilton city staff has also advocated for constructing the Niagara to Greater Toronto highway stating in a report last fall that a “new NGTA corridor is a key priority for the economic prosperity of the city, surrounding regions and the province.”
Also advocating for building the Mid-Pen is Tory leader Tim Hudak, who has said it is in the best economic interest of the area to have the highway constructed. The Mid-Pen highway idea was first introduced by the former Conservative Premier Mike Harris.
“I see building the Mid-Pen Corridor as the single biggest investment in job creation we would make for Hamilton and Niagara families in a generation,” he states on his website. "I believe a new trade corridor through Niagara – one of the fastest growing areas in North America– would capitalize on this region’s potential for economic growth and attract new investment and cross-border trade with our American partners.”
He added a highway would also relieve gridlock.
Murray dismissed the Tories’ efforts to advocate for such a project.
“I’m not a traffic expert, but I’m really glad to know that Tim Hudak is because apparently he’s the expert on this now,” said Murray. “And some where when we were not looking he got an engineering degree and he can’t find anyone else to agree with him (for a NGTA).”