Nixing of $212 million Wonderland Road widening backed by city committee

Wonderland Road is a traffic-clogged commuting nightmare through west London.

On Tuesday, the Civic Works Committee discussed detouring from a plan to widen 8.2 kilometres of the arterial road between Sarnia Road and Southdale Road from four to six lanes.

“Roadway widening to temporarily alleviate congestion will not achieve our strategic plan’s goal to mitigate climate change, improving affordability, and make the city more livable,” explained Deputy City Manager of Environment & Infrastructure Kelly Scherr.

City engineers recently reviewed 12 road projects with a new screening tool, created as part of city hall’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.

The screening tool determined widening the road would, through a process called, induced demand, attract even more drivers to Wonderland.

Traffic congestion would soon return and carbon emissions increase.

Instead, Scherr recommends a more holistic approach to address traffic congestion which could include improving traffic light synchronization, reducing access to Wonderland Road and bus-prioritizing cue jump lanes at intersections.

“We can take a very complete assessment of all of these various potential solutions, but not necessarily excluding any,” Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan told his colleagues on the committee.

Suspending the Environmental Assessment (EA) study for the mega-project was described as counter intuitive by Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen whose ward is bisected by Wonderland.

“There is a need to widen this road,” Van Meerbergen argued the mega-project’s timeline would allow technological advancement. “It won’t be done until 2037, and by that time, electric vehicles will be everywhere.”

Several councillors questioned the $212 million price tag to widen just 8.2 kilometres of roadway in the city, plus increases to annual maintenance and snow removal budgets for the additional lanes.

“The application of the (Climate Emergency) screening tool is showing us where those benefits might be,” said Councillor Stephen Turner. “It’s leading us to question a $200 million dollar project — that’s impressive.”

The Civic Works Committee voted 5-1, Van Meerbergen opposed, to recommend suspending the EA study and wait for a citywide Mobility Master Plan (MMP) to be developed in consultation with the public.

The MMP will consider all modes of transportation in the context of the climate change emergency declared by council in 2019.

“If it’s really a question of moving more people, versus moving more traffic, and how to do that more efficiently with taxpayers’m money,” explains Councillor Elizabeth Peloza.

Council will make a final decision about suspending the Wonderland widening September 14.

Work to develop the Mobility Master Plan in consultation with stakeholders and the public will start this fall.