Corp Comm Connects


Transportation summit told gridlock solution can’t be just another highway plan

Fate of GTA West highway proposal unclear
Nov. 9, 2016
By Roger Belgrave

Ontario’s transportation minister didn’t specifically mention the highway proposal that could route east/west traffic across north Peel, but the fate of the Greater Toronto Area West Highway Corridor (GTA West) was surely on the minds of attendees at a transportation conference in Brampton.

Peel, Hamilton, Niagara Region, Waterloo and the Southern Ontario Gateway Council sponsored the Moving People and Goods Transportation Summit. It was organized to discuss economic development strategies through infrastructure planning for a wide range of transportation modes.

More than 100 transportation stakeholders from all levels of government and the private sector attended the event at the Pearson Convention Centre Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was keynote speaker.

Del Duca was not among ministry officials participating in summit discussions, but stayed long enough to impress upon the conference that road construction is only one option in what must be a multi-faceted approach to solving gridlock in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In December 2015, Del Duca suspended an Environmental Assessment on the proposed GTA West highway project, which would stretch from Vaughan in the east to the Hwy. 401/407 ETR interchange in the west.

At that time he announced an internal review of the project. This past summer an advisory panel was formed to assess potential alternatives to the proposal.

The moves highlight the Liberal government’s new approach to long-term transportation planning.

Sustainable transportation has become bedrock for the government’s planning philosophy.

Ontario is now seeking to create a comprehensive multi-modal transportation strategy that incorporates the Liberal government’s commitment to fighting climate change.

“The last time that we did or undertook significant transportation planning very few people were talking about the challenges of climate change,” said Del Duca.

The technological changes transforming transportation as we know it were also not a part of previous long-term planning, he added.

“I think it’s safe to say that expectations have changed and understandably we have to respond,” he told the summit.

It remains unclear where this planning philosophy leaves the proposed GTA West Corridor and the municipalities who view the proposed highway as critical to economic development.

“Regional council’s position is we believe it is necessary. It’s built into our official plan. It really is one of the key components of solving the gridlock issues that we’ve got in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Peel Region CAO David Szwarc.

The Greater Golden Horseshoe is responsible for generating approximately two-thirds of the goods and services produced in Ontario. About $800 billion in goods travelled through the region in 2012, according to ministry statistics.

Peel Transportation System Planning Manager Sabbir Saiyed said the municipalities involved in the summit are working collaboratively and with the provincial government to develop short-term and long-term transportation plans.

The focus is on all modes of transportation, not just cars, he emphasized.

“There is only limited opportunity for us to widen and build new roads,” remarked Saiyed, who noted public health outcomes have also become an important part of developing transportation plans.