It’s been several years since the Liberal government in Ontario shelved the proposed Niagara to GTA and the GTA West projects. The Niagara to GTA corridor would have provided an alternate route to the border at Buffalo running along the southern part of Niagara and Hamilton. Among other perceived benefits would have been enhanced access to the border from Hamilton International Airport’s burgeoning cargo sector. It was also seen as a spur to the development of the Airport Employment District. The GTA West corridor was seen as providing relief for goods movement through Peel and Halton Regions. After spending more than a decade studying the two projects the province slammed on the brakes and instead announced a 50-year study into the province’s transportation network.
Recently however, the federal government has begun to show interest in international Trade Corridors and that has spurred area MP’s Bob Bratina and Vance Badawy of Niagara Centre to raise the NGTA possibility with Transport Minister Marc Garneau. The government has already set aside $10 Billion ford trade corridors, and Garneau has unveiled a Transportation 2020 plan that among other things endorses the establishment of trade corridors to global markets. Another encouraging move was the government announcement of the establishment of a free trade zone (FTZ) in southern Niagara. The new government at Queen’s Park is believed to be more open than the Wynne government to this type of infrastructure investment especially since the federal government now seems prepared to provide funding.
In a briefing paper MP Badawy wrote, “A Niagara-Hamilton Trade Corridor would support international trade by addressing vulnerabilities and congestion on QEW and could be eligible for federal funds. The Region (of Niagara) should request, and work with, MTO to develop an alternative route paralleling the QEW. The potential interim route could include a combination of Highway 58, Forks Road (Regional Road 23), Victoria Road (Regional Road 24), Regional Road 65, and former Highway 20.
The proposed east-west alternate route would be enhanced by the extension of Highway 406 southerly to connect with the new NGTA. For its part, while the province put a halt to the Niagara to Hamilton portion of the NGTA it is actively planning on what could be a beginning—a new arterial road from Fort Erie to the Welland Canal that would service Niagara Employment Growth lands.
The report continued: “given Niagara Region’s strategic location between the GTHA and New York State, the NGTA Corridor would be a key corridor for the movement of people and goods between Ontario and US markets. An average of 36,000 trucks per week (2012) cross the Niagara-US border with an average total value of $1.58 billion (2012 CDN) per week.”
A significant question remains about how much support the NGTA project would have at the municipal level. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has been opposed to the project in the past, and it’s unclear what the attitude will be in Niagara given the recent election that saw the Regional Chair and half of the council defeated.