Election Focus: The Parkway Expansion

Originally published in Arthur Newspaper.

In the upcoming municipal mayoral and council election, the issue of the Parkway corridor vs Jackson Park will be a subject for hot debate. This article aims to bring you up to speed with the issue and what the stances of several Northcrest council candidates plan to do about it.

The Northcrest ward stretches from Parkhill past the university on the west bank. It is one of several neighbourhoods popular for students. It’s also one of the wards that the parkway extension will be located in.

Jackson Park Parkway bridge model

The Issue:

Golden Horseshoe regional development requires Peterborough to prepare for an economic and population boom.

Part of a larger municipal plan to build residential areas in the city, transportation infrastructure is being developed simultaneously. A parkway corridor, which runs from Cumberland Ave to the Parkway, plans to service the residential areas of Chemong, University Heights and Towerhill Rd.

Many residents of these areas (and the city at large) object to the Parkway as the favoured proposal. It will run through the beloved Jackson Park. Despite alternatives, this proposal was pushed through by the current city council.

Background Timeline

1948: The Parkway corridor was first proposed in discussions of the Peterborough City Council to mitigate the effects of a predicted post-WWII population boom. Suggestions featured a four-lane thoroughfare that did not cross Jackson Park.

1967: Engineering firm Damas & Smith Ltd prepare the first conceptual designs for a bridge over Jackson Park. In 1970, municipal council shelved these parkway plans.

2002: The City of Peterborough updated its Transportation Master Plan, included within it were plans for bypass corridors around the city.

2003: Peterborough city council held a referendum for the parkway corridor, which, by a margin of 10%, was voted down.

2006: The Ontario Provincial Government released a plan to build infrastructure in “the Greater Golden Horseshoe” which requires that cities update their Official Plans to accommodate an expected economic and population boom of the region up until the year 2031. These municipal plans included actions for accommodating new residential areas and transportation flow around them. The province required municipal plans be updated by 2009 and work to begin in 2015.

2012: The Parkway was flagged a project for 2022 and beyond in the Transportation Plan and Budget. Later in 2012, the city hired AECOM to conduct an environmental assessment (EA) for the project.

2013: AECOM revealed its recommended route for a $66.4M corridor that featured a $25M bridge over Jackson Park. The unveiling sparked city-wide debate and was a critical moment in the formation of groups like Parks Not Parkways, Friends of Jackson Park, and The Peterborough Greenspace Coalition.

The Opposition

Citizen complaints to the building of the parkway have become funneled down into one big issue: the bridge over Jackson Park. The bridge is seen as unnecessary, expensive, and disruptive to the wetland ecosystem. Parks Not Parkways states on their website, “[The parkway] will cost too much—$66 million of our tax dollars (and likely more), and it won’t solve our transportation problems.”

The parkway has several other alternatives that do not incorporate such a bridge and involve circumnavigating the entire park. On the Parks Not Parkways website, they propose a ‘Plan B’ that has “94% of the good with maybe 10% of the bad.” This involves a ring road that circumnavigates the city limits. It services that same areas but completely bypasses Jackson Park.

Another obstacle for the parkway is a potential legal battle over prescribed uses of the land. Jackson Park was left as a gift in the will of Charlotte Nicholls to the city of Peterborough. The will stipulates that the land will be used “as a public park and recreation ground and for no other purpose.” If the Nicholls Park Trust chooses, they could launch a legal battle against the city if they consider the parkway a violation of the agreement.

A final objection to the bridge is the conflict of interest regarding AECOM, the company hired for the EA. The company is qualified to do EAs, but the bulk of its business comes from large-scale construction tenders. It is likely that they will bid on the city tender to build the parkway and it is probable that they will win it. Naturally, it would be in the company’s best interest to recommend the most expensive solution.

Candidate Opinions

Arthur was able to speak to three candidates running for the Northcrest ward seats on city council this week.

Bill Templeton is a newcomer to municipal politics but has long been engaged in a citizen capacity with local affairs. Templeton’s proposal for Northcrest transportation issues involves comprehensive revitalization to traffic monitoring systems, the construction of traffic islands, widening arterial roads (Chemong Rd, Lily Lake Rd, and Fairbairn Rd), and building the ring road as featured on the Parks Not Parkways websites. Templeton is strongly in favour of keeping Jackson Park intact while servicing the traffic needs of the community.

David Haacke has run for municipal office three times prior to this and once before at the provincial level. Haacke’s ideal solution for the parkway corridor would be to keep with the current plans for the parkway corridor but build a smaller bridge than proposed by AECOM over the Northwestern corner of Jackson Park. This would leave the TransCanada trail intact and minimize potential negative effects on the wetland. Haacke is a strong proponent of active healthy lifestyles. His idea of future transportation development would include comprehensive consideration of cyclists and pedestrians.

Stephen Wright, says he’s “opposed to the project in scope,” adding, “I’m not naive about the fact that Peterborough is a growing city and that we need to deal with the traffic problem, but this is the wrong way to deal with it.” Wright indicates there are many other solutions he would like the city to explore.

“I’m also mindful of future costs associated with the project. … I’ve never seen a municipal project come in under cost” he said.

Kathryn Eyre and current council member Andrew Beamer were unavailable for comment.

Eyre is also a newcomer to Peterborough politics and this will be her first run for city council. No information could be found about her thoughts on the Parkway.

Beamer is seeking a second term on city council and is strongly in favour of keeping the bridge over the park. In the November 13, 2013 vote on a motion by Town Ward Councillor Dean Pappas to remove the bridge from the plan for the Parkway, Beamer voted in favour of keeping the bridge.

via Election Focus: The Parkway Expansion.

Published by Ayesha Barmania

Ayesha Barmania is a journalist-entrepreneur and audio documentary maker, living and working in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.