You need to get along with your neighbours, but sometimes you must simply say “No”. Such is the case of The Town of Markham and the Morningside Extension. Markham is Toronto’s neighbour to the north east, and has a ballooning population of single family homes. Unsurprisingly these families want to commute into Toronto, where they have jobs. Unfortunately the existing north-south roads from Markham, through Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, to Toronto’s Highway 401 are already at capacity and overflowing. The solution proposed by Markham is to build a new North-south road, through Scarborough, to Highway 401. Between Markham and Highway 401 lies the Rouge Valley, a large protected area of land soon destined to become a national park.
Toronto’s suburbs are car oriented. I know this because if you ride a bicycle or walk in Scarborough you have a good chance of getting run over by drivers in a rush to get to wherever. Just yesterday I was riding my bicycle on the road, and a driver drove his vehicle perilously close to me in a threatening way and told me to ride faster because I was slowing him down. Markham is even more car oriented.
Markham built a north-south mini-highway, Highway 69, to the border of Toronto, Steeles Avenue. In 2005 Markham then asked Toronto to extend their mini-highway south to Highway 401. With dissent from local residents, environmental activists and local politicians, this proposal was flatly refused, and rightly so. Local residents feared they would end up with expropriated land and an 8 lane highway through their neighbourhood. The Ontario government refused to force Toronto to build this highway.
The new proposal is slightly different but not all that much better. The mini-highway from Markham (blue dots) will end at Steeles Avenue. Steeles avenue, now a 2 lane road, will expand to six lanes going westbound (red dots). A new 4 lane road will then cut southward into existing farmland to connect up to Morningside Road (pink dots), which now connects to Highway 401.
Morningside Avenue Extension Proposal, 2011, Toronto, Canada. More cars and more traffic for local residents.
I oppose this proposal because not a half kilometer west of this proposal is Highway 48, Markham Road, which is a north-south 8 lane monolith of a highway that connects to Highway 401. Why build yet another north-south 4 lane highway through suburban Toronto to connect to Highway 401 when there is already an existing 8 lane highway doing the same. We do not need more roads to cater to more vehicular traffic.
A more appropriate solution would be to expand Steeles Avenue westbound from Markham’s Highway 9 all the way to Highway 48 or Markham Road. From Steeles Avenue to Highway 401, convert Markham Road into a real highway, increasing speeds from the existing 60 kph zone to an 80 kph zone. Markham Road today is a large highway, largely industrial, with few side streets and traffic lights. It could be easily updated to handle the increased speed limit.
Morningside Road Extension, Aerial Photo, 2011, Toronto, Canada. Prime farmland would be destroyed. The local community would see a huge highway in their backyard.
Sometimes the answer to transportation is not to continue to build more and larger roads. When you already have a huge 8 lane north-south highway not half a kilometer west, and you want to add yet another 4 lane road close by, you know you are addicted to some kind of drug: This drug is the automobile. We need to stop thinking car-centric and start thinking more public transit. Expand the Go train instead. Increase the efficiency of existing roads if you must, but these roads are already at capacity. As Markham and areas north of Toronto expand, commuting by car will become slower and slower. Proposals such as the Morningside Road extension should not be approved. More capacity for cars is not the long term solution to the Greater Toronto Area’s transportation needs.
Map of the Rouge Valley area near Steeles Avenue, which includes Markham Road, Morningside Avenue, the Toronto Zoo, and the Pickering Town Line. The ravine here makes road building problematic. This area will become a national park in the future, so don't develop on it now.