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Six-lane Wonderland Road widening may be stopped after climate change action plan flexes muscle

London, Ont. -

Plans to widen traffic-clogged Wonderland Road to six lanes may soon be off the table.

In a report to the Civic Works Committee, city engineers recommend council suspend the environmental assessment study that launched in 2019, putting the breaks on planning for the mega-project— indefinitely.

“We need to be creative and more strategic,” explains Director of Transportation and Mobility Doug MacRae. “A lot of the projects were envisioned prior to the climate change emergency, and so we are thinking about them in a different context.”

In 2019, city council officially declared a climate change emergency in London.

As part of city hall’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, a new screening tool reviewed 12 major road projects to evaluate their carbon footprints.

The result, staff recommend two road widening projects be suspended in the planning stage: Wonderland Road and Adelaide Street North.

Instead, the report recommends the Wonderland corridor, “be evaluated as part of the upcoming Mobility Master Plan with a focus on transit, high-occupancy vehicle use, and active transportation.”

But the recommendation is already receiving political push back.

“It’s one of the busiest, if not the busiest thoroughfare in the city. It’s crying out for six lanes,” argues Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen.

Wonderland Road passes through Councillor Van Meerbergen’s ward.

“The traffic sits, it stalls out, how does that help climate change if you have idling traffic not moving?” he asks rhetorically.

The London Environmental Network, however, is encouraged to see a more holistic approach to mobility.

“You get less cars on the road by improving people’s access to cycling, to buses, and to walking.” says Executive Director Skylar Franke. “The money we can save from widening the road, we can actually spend on improving active transit infrastructure.”

“Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, and this is an excellent opportunity for them to back that up with some action,” Franke adds.

MacRae says adding two more lanes will only temporarily reduce traffic congestion — eventually the greater capacity would attract even more drivers to Wonderland Road.

It’s uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact future travel patterns, but MacRae’s report states that from 2019 to 2020 gas and diesel sales dropped 21 percent in London.

If council agrees to suspend the mega-project, MacRae says Wonderland’s traffic woes will be examined more holistically after city hall develops the new Mobility Master Plan (MMP).

“The Mobility Master Plan will be a thorough discussion with Londoners to consider the environment, equity, and economic growth in the city,” he adds.

Work on the MMP is expected to begin this fall and take a couple years to complete.

The Civic Works Committee will discuss the Wonderland Road report next week. Top Stories

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