Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Proposed Barrydowne Extension

(originally posted at: S.A.G.E. : Sudbury Advocates for the Green Economy; Facebook)

From today’s Sudbury Star: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1495137

So, it looks like Council will begin the process of studying the proposed Barrydowne Extension. As many of you know, talk of an extension of Barrydowne north from it’s current terminus with Maley Drive all the way out to Hanmer has been around for a long while. This route has been depicted in the City’s various planning documents for many years. In a very real sense, this is not a new proposal. And it is one which will be welcomed by many Sudburians currently using Highway 69 North for their daily commute from the Valley into Sudbury, as one of the stated purpose of the Barrydowne extension is to reduce traffic along 69 North. City Councillor Andre Rivest (Ward 6) has been one of the champions for the building of this road for a while now.

Given the above, why am I opposed to the proposed Barrydowne Extension? Isn’t this new road needed in our community?

The short answer to the second question is no, it is not needed. The reasons for that answer are why I am opposed to the proposed Extension. And those reasons have everything to do with the Green Economy and how we go about building a community for the future, rather than for the past. This issue is about a lot more than building a new road. It’s about what kind of community we want to have for our families in the future.

You see, the Barrydowne Extension makes sense within a certain context: If there is to be more low density residential development on agricultural lands in the Valley on the fringes of built-up areas, where residents will have no choice but to get around by way of personal automobiles, than the Barrydowne Extension appears to make some sense. If we build another road to service this exurban development, it will alleviate traffic pressures on the only other existing transportation artery, Highway 69 North. With the Barrydowne extension, we can get more people in more cars from low density residential areas in the Valley to their jobs, recreation and shopping opportunities within Sudbury.

If we are to continue to think about the future of our community in these terms, the Barrydowne Extension certainly would make a lot of sense.

The economic health of our community, however, is in peril from this out-dated, past-oriented, brown mind-set. Communities of the future, which embrace the coming green economy, are already thinking ahead, and making integrated decisions which compliment each other, in order to achieve a desired community vision.

In and of itself, the Barrydowne Extension is not a particular problem, although the costs associated with its construction might be more than the average Sudburian would like. The problem is that building this road keeps open the lid of the Pandora’s Box of problems we have in here in Greater Sudbury which require our immediate attention and action. These problems are: the loss of good, local agricultural lands to low-density, unsustainable development on the fringes of our communities which contribute to an energy-dependent car culture. We will continue to build infrastructure, but not communities.

And this makes absolutely no economic sense. As noted by one of the Sudbury Star’s online comment-writers, by continuing to invest in a City of the Past, we miss out on opportunities to invest those same dollars in projects which we need to build a community ready for the future. That future community, the one we need to start building now, will not have as many places in it for energy consumption-intensive development patterns. People simply will not be able to afford to live in many of the low density subdivisions which are being built today on our suburban fringes. The costs of home heating and transportation will make those locations undesirable. And the fact that many of these areas are built on some of the best farmland in Northern Ontario really adds insult to injury, because we all know that the Green Economy of the future is going to emphasize the need for investments in local agricultural products.

The Barrydowne Extension will continue to facilitate this kind of backward-looking, brown way of community building. The overall costs associated with its development go far beyond the engineering and construction costs which will be cited by everyone involved in the coming debates.

Those of us here interested in building a community ready to embrace the future need to be cognizant of the very real threat posed by the Barrydowne Extension. Simply put, we can’t keep throwing our money away on projects which hinder our prospects to build a Greater Sudbury ready to embrace a green future.

I note that the Sudbury Star indicates that this project needs to first go through an Environmental Assessment process. This will be the one significant opportunity that we will have for public input. We need to seriously start thinking about mobilizing our efforts here. Hopefully, we can use S.A.G.E. as a vehicle to help convince City Council that it would be unwise to invest in the Barrydowne Extension.

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