Council detours from $212M plan to widen Wonderland Road after climate screening

Constructing new traffic lanes will not be the solution to the traffic congestion plaguing Wonderland Road.

On Tuesday, city council voted 9 to 5 to suspend the environmental assessment study of a $212 million plan to widen eight kilometres of Wonderland Road north of Southdale.

City engineers recommend suspending the environmental assessment after the project was reviewed using a new climate change screening tool created in response to council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency.

It determined that expanding the road to six lanes would attract more vehicles, not resolving the traffic congestion.

“It doesn’t make sense from a climate perspective. Also, it’s really expensive. What more do we need to know to know that’s not a good option anymore?” asked Councillor Jesse Helmer.

Uncertainty about the alternative solutions, however, led to a lengthy debate.

“I’m very cautious about putting an official suspension (on the project) until I see what’s replacing it,” said Councillor Steve Lehman.

City engineers recommend developing a new Mobility Master Plan for the city that would include considering other ways to improve the movement of Londoners on Wonderland Road.

Staff say it could include traffic light synchronization, reducing access to Wonderland, and installing cue jump lanes to prioritize buses.

“There’s talk about addressing the choke points— but the whole stretch is a choke point,” argued Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen whose ward is bisected by Wonderland.

But Councillor Elizabeth Peloza fired back, “If we’re going from four to six lanes, we’re not building a road. We are building a highway that’s going to divide our city.”

Councillor Anna Hopkins acknowledged that taking a new approach to resolving traffic congestion would require political courage.

“I think we owe it to Londoners to make hard decisions. That’s why we’re elected,” Hopkins challenged other councillors.

A motion by Councillor Lehman that would have kept the widening as one of the options considered during development of the Mobility Master Plan was defeated.

After council suspended the EA study, Lehman said his attention will shift to the alternative solutions brought forward in the Mobility Master Plan, “I will be watching closely to make sure those are realistic options that will improve the congestion on Wonderland.”

London’s new Mobility Master Plan will will start being developed later this year.