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Thursday, March 08, 2007

New roads only drive sprawl: critics

New roads only drive sprawl: critics

The new commitment to expand three GTA highways is completely at odds with claims by the federal and Ontario governments that they want to combat air pollution, climate change, urban sprawl and traffic congestion, critics say.
"The plans are absolutely fatal to what we're trying to achieve," Mark Winfield, of the Pembina Institute, said yesterday.
He was commenting after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced funding for public transit, contingent on the province's pledge to complete the highway projects. These are "highways to sprawl," Winfield said. "There's no other way to describe them."
The announcement confirms three projects that have been under discussion for some time:
Extend Highway 404 from Newmarket to Ravenshoe, at the southern end of Lake Simcoe, by 2012: Cost, $250 million.
Extend Highway 407 some 67 kilometres east to Peterborough, with links to Highway 401 through Pickering and Oshawa, by 2013: Cost, not specified.
Widen Highway 7 across Durham Region, by 2012: Cost, $55 million.
Although yesterday's announcement included no federal funding for these road projects, Ottawa is developing a new infrastructure program that will include highways, said a spokesperson for Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon.
All of the routes run through the official Greenbelt, whose creation was intended to curb sprawl around the Golden Horseshoe, and the 407 extension "will be boring a whole new corridor" through that area and the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine, Winfield said.
Major highways have a history of leading to car-centred development, long commutes and added air pollution, said David Donnelly, of Environmental Defence.
New roads will lead to new development and infrastructure that ultimately impinges on the Greenbelt.
Since there are few residents or jobs along the proposed extensions, if development doesn't follow, "you're wasting taxpayers' money," Donnelly said.
The highways will "embed long commuting times," Winfield said.
"The whole idea behind what the province has said it's supposed to be doing is to reduce long-distance commuting, not promote and facilitate

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