“Concerns about this Greenbelt highway are driven by local people who live in the areas directly impacted by it,” says a local Greenbelt Coalition official.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner continues to call on Premier Doug Ford to scrap plans for the Bradford Bypass project.
Schreiner calls the highway a “climate and economic disaster”.
“It would slice through the greenbelt, pave over 42 acres of Holland Marsh, destroy 96 acres of wildlife habitat and 25 acres of provincially significant wetlands,” he said during a virtual press conference. Feb. 25 with Simcoe County Executive Director. Greenbelt Coalition, Margaret Prophet.
The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada recently announced that it will not reverse its decision to deny environmental groups’ request for federal impact assessment designation for the highway.
Schreiner said the highway would further pollute the already fragile Lake Simcoe and increase the risk of flooding, pumping 87 million kilograms of climate pollution into the air every year, adding that most local residents don’t want it. highway – referring to a survey conducted by Lake Simcoe Watch November 2021.
The six-question survey was completed by 900 residents of the ridings of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Barrie-Innisfil and York-Simcoe.
One of the questions asked if they supported the construction of the 16 km link between highways 400 and 404. Forty-eight percent answered “No”.
“Local momentum is building against this highway,” Prophet said. “Despite what some people might want to believe, concerns about this Greenbelt highway are driven by local people who live in the areas directly impacted by it. »
Despite Lake Simcoe Watch’s poll results, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer maintained that residents want the highway and want it built properly.
“They (the locals) have made their voices heard clearly through our democratic processes and expect governments to deliver on their election promises,” Keffer said.
But Schreiner and Prophet believe that building freeways is not the answer to traffic congestion. Instead, they’re calling on the government to invest in building viable, affordable communities that don’t require long, expensive commutes to work.
“Communities where people can work, live, play and shop,” Schreiner said.
Prophet said the bypass project lacked vision and evidence, and cited estimates that Lake Simcoe will have toxic salt levels from winter road salt use within 37 years.
“So how does a highway give hope to future generations?” asked the Prophet. “We are going blind without a budget, without comprehensive studies, without any consideration for our climate and for Lake Simcoe.”
“Doug Ford insists on bulldozing this damaging highway that the Toronto Area Board of Trade estimates will cost $1.5 billion,” Schreiner said.
When asked what the cost of the highway would be, the Department of Transportation acknowledged that the information was not currently available.
“As we bring this project to market, we want to preserve our position in the commercial process. As such, the department will not release cost estimates before contracts are awarded to protect procurement processes,” the senior communications advisor said. and MTO press officer Dakota Brasier.
The contract award for the first works is expected to be made next month, “to get the shovels in the ground as soon as possible”, Brasier said, adding that without strong action the traffic jam in the area will only get worse. .
“The Bradford bypass was abandoned by the Dalton McGuinty (Liberal) government, and now the need for this highway is even greater than it was 20 years ago,” she said. “Our government is committed to making our transportation system work for all Ontarians. That’s why we’re making historic investments in transit and transportation infrastructure to significantly expand and improve the province’s transportation network.
Brasier said the Bradford Bypass is expected to support more than 700 jobs per year, on average, during construction, and will generate more than $70 million in annual real GDP.
“Motorists and trucks are expected to experience significant journey time savings using the Bradford Bypass compared to existing routes along local roads, saving commuters up to 35 minutes per journey,” Brasier said.
The ministry noted that public consultation is an important part of the preliminary design stage of the Bradford Bypass and the project-specific assessment of the environmental impact process.
“The project team has consulted and will continue to consult with Indigenous communities, municipalities, environmental agencies and relevant stakeholders throughout the preliminary design of the project,” Brasier insisted.
The scope of the project includes the widening of County Road 4 (Yonge Street) from two to four lanes and the addition of a multi-use pathway on the east side of County Road 4, in coordination with Simcoe County.
“This ongoing work aims to refine the engineering and update the study to reflect changes since the original plan was approved in 2002,” Brasier said.
As part of the study, Brasier said an environmental condition report (ECR) will identify potential environmental impacts, and an environmental impact assessment report (EIAR) will include a final description of the highway alignment and design, environmental impact assessment results, mitigation measures, monitoring activities, and any permits and approvals that may be required.
“The Ontario government has committed to fully fund the construction of the Bradford Bypass and is delivering on its promise to improve and invest in the province’s transportation corridors to keep people moving in the region, connect people to jobs, make life easier and support a strong one,” said Brasier. “This study will follow the approved assessment process outlined in Ontario Regulation 697/21 which will allow the ministry to move the project forward in a manner that protects the environment. The project team will continue with previous environmental commitments made during the 2002 route planning and environmental assessment study.”
Brasier noted that the following environmental studies will be conducted during the preliminary design stage:
- Agricultural Impact Assessment
- Air Quality Impact Assessment
- Archaeological assessment (steps 2, 3 and 4, as needed)
- Cultural Heritage Assessment
- Drainage and hydrology
- Erosion Risk Assessment and Sediment Control
- Report on existing conditions and impact on fish and fish habitat
- Fluvial geomorphology
- Groundwater Impact Assessment
- Land Use and Property Impact Assessment
- Noise and vibration impact assessment
- Preliminary landscape composition plan
- Snowdrift Assessment
- Report of assessment of existing conditions and impacts on terrestrial ecosystems (including an assessment of vegetation and plant communities, wildlife and wildlife habitat, species at risk and designated natural areas); and,
- Waste and Excess Materials Management Plan
“All environmental requirements such as undertaking consultation and obtaining permits and approvals for the project will be undertaken to ensure that the final alignment and design of the Bradford Bypass is determined by a decision-making process which would be consistent with the expectations of the Environmental Assessment Act,” said Brasier. “This government takes environmental protection seriously and provides a way forward that will ensure that environmental protection is not compromised while quickly and safely building this much needed project.”
The Green Party of Ontario has pledged to protect 25% of Ontario’s lands and waters by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Schreiner and the Coalition have said they will continue to oppose to the construction of the highway.
“If the federal Liberals and provincial Conservatives don’t stand up for the environment, Ontario Greens will,” Schreiner said. “We have to stop this highway now.”
To view the Friday afternoon press conference, click here.