February 26, 2010
FEATURE | Roadbuilding
Oshawa mayor fights to speed up highway 407 eastward extension
A campaign to extend Highway 407 from Brock Road in Pickering to Highways 35/115 in one continuous phase continues to snowball, says Oshawa Mayor John Henry.
With the support of local and regional officials and some provincial and federal politicians, Henry has been leading the charge against the province’s decision last summer to build the extension in two phases.
Stretching the project’s timeline runs contrary to a number of promises made by the province, including the 2007 Federal/Provincial FLOW agreement, which committed $4.5 billion in public transit and highway infrastructure projects to the Greater Toronto Area, says Henry.
Building in two phases instead of one would be a waste of the money already spent on environmental assessment and engineering studies.
The impact on the Oshawa area would also be damaging both economically and socially, he suggests.
Under the two-phase proposal, the first leg would dead-end at Simcoe Street. Traffic will be either forced south into the heart of the city or north into the still-rural north portion of Oshawa and adjacent municipalities.
“This is still a major agricultural area,” says Henry and the phasing will have serious impacts on traffic flow and the community.
The province did not undertake traffic, noise, financial and other impact studies to determine the full impact of “dumping” Highway 407 traffic directly on to regional or local networks, says Henry, who estimates terminating the expressway at Simcoe Street would cost the city and region approximately $329 million in unplanned capital road work and ongoing maintenance costs.
Those monies would be “thrown away” once the expressway is connected with Highway 35/115, he adds making it a substantive material change.
It is an issue that reverberates far beyond the region’s borders.
Citing a Toronto Board of Trade study that says traffic congestion in the Greater Toronto Area results in $6 billion worth of lost productivity annually, Henry says the benefits of extending the 407 all at once would extend as far away as Windsor and New York State.
Last fall, he and other area mayors met with Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne to plead their case.
The mayor is not sitting still in his fight.
In January, he embarked on a “road campaign” to garner support from local councils in the province’s Golden Horseshoe, winning support from cities like St. Catharines, while also meeting with groups like the Ontario Trucking Association, local realtors and talking it up with the media.
Letters have also been sent to MPPs and an online petition form has been signed by more than 500 people. (See www.oshawa.ca/407)
Wynne says the province knows how important the 407 East extension is to the region, but says it has to be affordable, noting the original Highway 407 was built in stages.
Infrastructure Ontario is in the process of qualifying project teams to design, build and finance and maintain the 407 East Extension. The project teams were short listed after the request for qualifications closed last year, says ministry spokesperson Kelly Baker.
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