In voting to scrap a $212 million plan to widen Wonderland Road from four to six lanes Tuesday night, the majority of London city councillors looked to show that they’re serious when it comes to taking action on climate change.
Council voted 9-5 to follow a staff recommendation to stop the environmental assessment for the project, which had already been put to residents at public information sessions.
The plan to widen the west-end road between Southdale and Sarnia Roads became a casualty of the city’s move to look at transportation projects through the lens of climate change.
The motion to adopt the staff recommendation and stop the road-widening stirred a long and at times impassioned debate from councillors.
Two councillors who represent west-end wards — Paul Van Meerbergen and Steve Lehman — argued that stopping the road widening would limit the city’s options to address traffic congestion in the future.
Van Meerbergen said the road already suffers from congestion, and said the widening is already overdue.
“We talk about addressing choke points, the whole stretch is a choke point,” he said.
A motion Lehman put forward to defer the decision was voted down.
‘Of course Londoners pick cars’
Others, including Coun. Elizabeth Peloza, said the climate emergency declaration should spur council to move in a different direction other than wider roads to solve the city’s transportation challenges.
“Of course Londoners pick cars,” she said. “It’s all we build for. We don’t have active transportation. We don’t have bike routes. We don’t have a full rapid transit plan in front of us.
“Let’s be honest if we’re going from four to six lanes, we’re not widening a road, we’re building a highway.”
The motion to halt the widening plan passed by a vote of nine to five with Councillors Lehman, Van Meerbergen, Phil Squire, Steven Hillier and Michael Van Holst voting against.
City staff told council that a new transportation master plan under development will look at different solutions for addressing traffic congestion.