Kudos to the Kitchener Record for bringing this to light. Read it here...
and since the Record has a nasty habit of putting everything in a for-fee archive within a day, here's the text.
New Highway 24 an arrow in McGuinty's green balloon
(Jul 7, 2007)
If our premier is to leave a legacy, aside from "No New Taxes," Dalton McGuinty knows it will be as the first Ontario leader to fight urban sprawl by the setting up of the Greenbelt. That, and the $17.5 billion announced for alternative transportation, are the major planks of his re-election campaign.
Unfortunately, the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Transportation have not embraced his vision. They are road builders. They think that every traffic problem is fixed by more pavement -- hence, their proposal for a new highway 424 that will push through the drinking water of the Galt-Paris moraine, through the sensitive wetlands of the Beverly Swamp, through McGuinty's own greenbelt, and through some of the best farmland of southern Ontario.
Of course, the effect on the environment will be devastating -- but will a new highway bring any advantages?
Cambridge city council has been told this is a Highway 24 bypass, but it passes nowhere near the existing highway. The ministry has admitted that 70 per cent of the traffic flooding off Highway 24 into downtown Galt and clogging the delta intersection is local. According to the ministry map the new highway will run from Highway 403 some 10 to 20 kilometres east of Brantford and arrive at Highway 401 a similar distance to the east of Cambridge. Local drivers will not drive 30 kilometres out of their way on the new highway when the existing Highway 24 is shorter and quicker.
After the new highway is built, and Cambridge discovers it has just as much traffic in its downtown and council requests a real highway bypass, it will be told by the ministry that the bypass money has already been spent on the new highway.
Of course, the road's main purpose is a conduit for development in Brantford. With a direct route to the 401, the greenbelt has been leap-frogged. We will see the kind of uncontrolled development in Brantford we have experienced in Cambridge and every other community along the 401 toward Toronto. Thousands of houses will be built over farm land and marketed in Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton, with a huge rise in commuter traffic.
If you travel from the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area every day on Highway 401, imagine the effect of sharing the road with another 20,000 cars from Brantford fighting to reach Toronto.
Unfortunately, developers only build houses -- never the amenities they need to make a community, such as children's recreational facilities, so hockey arenas and soccer fields become overcrowded and expensive.
The medical services are overwhelmed with six-hour waits in emergency departments and hospital facilities constantly lag behind needs. Families wait years to find a family doctor, with long waits for surgery due to the shortage of anesthetists and surgeons. Even the old age homes become scarce as the newcomers want relatives closer as they become frail.
Smaller communities will be equally devastated. Immediately to the east of Cambridge the community of Puslinch will disappear under pavement. Already bearing the noise pollution of the 401 at its northern boundary, it will have the new 424 to the east and, inevitably, a main new highway to the west when Cambridge finds it still needs a ring road.
In the beautiful little town of St. George property developers in the know have been buying up farmland to the west of the town. With an on-off ramp planned for the east of the town on Highway 5, the town will become a racetrack as the Toronto commuters in the new developments hurry to the new link to the 401.
Even tiny Sheffield, supposedly secure in the greenbelt, will have the new highway only yards from half the houses in the village.
We are all used to the concept of a win-win situation but this must be the most perfect example of lose-lose.
Lost forever will be the wildlife of the wetlands, the pristine waters of the moraine, the quiet lifestyles of the country inhabitants, and the stability of the City of Brantford and the smaller towns and villages.
Losers will include the inhabitants of Cambridge -- their city still a throughway for traffic from the south of the city and the commuters from the greater area of Kitchener and Waterloo who are mired in traffic when they should be home enjoying the company of their families.
If you can feel sorry for politicians, then appreciate the pain of McGuinty's government when its main election plank has cracked underneath it due to insensitivity of the bureaucrats of the ministry of transportation. And, perhaps, feel sorry for the dinosaurs of the ministry who find themselves in a strange new green world they don't understand, while trying desperately to evolve beyond cement and tarmac.
Dr. Paul Cary is a Sheffield resident and vice-president of Stop the 424 Association. Second Opinion articles reflect the views of Record readers on a variety of subjects.