Highway 407 cuts through the former Norton family farm in north Burlington like an arrow piercing the heart of what once was rich farmland. You’d never know it used to be part of Ontario’s bread basket, with crops springing up on a regular basis.
Still Al Norton, a descendant of the family that owned the farm dating back to 1903, can appreciate the benefits of the toll-road.
“If it hadn’t cut the farm in two, it probably would have been retirement lands for my kids,” he said. “I was not against the highway, but I wish we had negotiated free mileage. We never thought of that!”
Today Norton has grandchildren living in Markham. He says he saves an hour in traveling time when he goes up to visit them once or twice a week by taking the 407.
Burlingtonians can reach Pearson International Airport in 30 minutes by taking the highway. That’s only about 10 minutes more than it takes to get to Hamilton International Airport by Hwy. 403.
Depending on the time of day, the cost is between $12 and $15 to get to Pearson. Those destined for eastern Ontario or Quebec can bypass the congested areas of Toronto by traveling to Pickering and then heading south to the 401. The cost is about $26.
The Norton family had about 60 acres of land expropriated by the Province to make way for the highway. Norton’s brother Dave, who died tragically in a single engine airplane crash in 2006, dealt with the government in the tedious process. Discussions went on for 10 years before a settlement was reached.
“It’s partially because Brant Street goes uphill at that point, the Harley Davidsons with the souped-up mufflers are revving up at the stoplight,” he said.
Weber said for most of the day traffic on 407 is not very heavy. But he has other issues with the route.
“I resent very much that we gave that highway to a foreign country. We have no control over what they charge,”
Weber was referring to the 43.23 per cent stake Cintra Infrastructures has in 407 International Inc., which operates the toll road.
“I don’t use it and I will, by preference, take an extra half-hour to go to the 401 if I am going to the airport.” Weber said.
407 International Inc. paid $3.1 billion to the provincial government for a 99-year lease on the highway. At the end of the lease agreement, the highway and toll systems etc. will be transferred to the Province of Ontario.
407 International Inc. reported second-quarter profits of $40.9 million this year, almost double the figure of $22.4 million a year ago, as revenue grew about 10 per cent.
The 407 is the world’s first all-electronic, barrier-free toll highway stretching 108 kilometers from Burlington to Pickering. It was opened to traffic in 1999 following a worldwide competitive bidding process, which resulted in leasing of the highway for 99 years for $3.1 billion.
Mayor Rick Goldring said it’s obvious the 407 helps drivers by making their commutes to Toronto shorter.
“But at the same time if they have two people in the car, they can use the HOV lanes on the QEW,” he said.
The mayor also pointed out construction of the 407 led to Burlington’s build-to boundary being north of the highway, instead of being Hwy. 5.
He said he has great concerns about the potential for another super highway north of the 407.
However Kevin Sack, vice-president communications and government relations for 407, said the route has many benefits.
Sack said proximity to the 407 often is listed as a benefit in real estate ads. Commuters will pay a little extra for a house, just to be able to jump on a relatively traffic-free route and get going.
“The single biggest reason people use the 407 is to save time by not sitting in traffic and to save money on gasoline,” he said.