Highway 413 – Back from the dead

(Environmental Defense, February 4, 2021) The zombie highway, Highway 413 is back from the dead. And this time it brought company.

The Ontario government has revived long-cancelled proposals to build two major highways: Highway 413 between Milton and Vaughan, and the Holland Marsh Highway – also known as the Bradford Bypass – that would run above Newmarket and straight through the Holland Marsh!

The Holland Marsh Highway was shelved in the early 2000s and was recently revived to go ahead – without updating the environmental assessment that was done nearly a quarter of a century ago. Meanwhile, Highway 413 was cancelled in 2018 after an expert panel found that the damage to Ontario’s communities, Greenbelt, farmland and water quality would far outweigh its benefits.

But, the Ontario government has decided to build them anyway, even changing the law to weaken provincial environmental assessments, and allow themselves to start pouring concrete before their assessment is complete.

Just another example of this government lowering environmental standards to please its developer friends. It has to stop.

(The Globe and Mail, February 16, 2021) “The plan, covering some 50 kilometres at a minimum of $6-billion, is officially dubbed the GTA West Corridor and more often labelled Highway 413. A better name would be The Sprawl Accelerator. It’s a plan to use taxpayer dollars to encourage real estate developers on the currently rural fringes of the Greater Toronto Area.

(in 2015)…the Liberals halted the process and convened an expert panel to assess the situation.

The panel was not impressed. It recommended the project be scrapped….The panel’s wariness can be distilled into a single figure: 30. That was the estimated time savings – in seconds – that Highway 413 would offer drivers. A new 50-kilometre highway – and half a minute shaved off a driver’s time behind the wheel.”

The expert panel’s report has been scrubbed from the Province’s website, but can be found in the web archive.

While environmental assessment for the project is slated to take almost two years, Ford’s government has proposed a “streamlined” process that would allow the construction of bridges and relocation of utilities to start before the assessment is even complete.

Farmers in the area are fighting back – as Allan Ehrlick, president of the Halton Region Federation of Agriculture calls the highway a profound economic mistake (Toronto Star, Feb. 13, 2021), “It’s an outdated throwback to an earlier era when farms, rural communities and nature itself were all merely the raw materials for unrestricted urban growth,” he says. “But the COVID pandemic has now dramatically changed the way people work. And that’s reduced the need for a new superhighway.”

The pandemic has also revealed our food system’s fragile reliance on increasingly pricey imported food trucked in across closed borders, Ehrlick adds, “Suddenly, everyone wants to buy local food. But you can’t grow it in subdivisions.”

Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture says (Toronto Star, Feb. 13, 2021), “OFA would like to see an Agricultural Impact Assessment done to better understand the overall impact,” Brekveld says with regard to the proposed superhighway. “Issues to consider include farm units cut into portions, transportation pressures for farm equipment on roads, and if the land use decisions will encourage further urban sprawl because of its location.”

On February 4, 2021, Environmental Defence, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition asked the federal government to conduct environment assessments (EAs) for two proposed 400-series Ontario highways in environmentally sensitive areas: Highway 413 (GTA West Highway) and the Holland Marsh Highway (Bradford Bypass). The significant impact on endangered species, migratory birds and aquatic life that will be caused by these highways, along with their associated increase in carbon emissions and the strong local opposition to these projects all meet the conditions for federal EAs.

Ecojustice is representing the groups in their requests to the federal government.

FUN has recently written to the Mayor and councillors of the Town of Caledon asking them to reverse their support for the highways and request federal environmental assessments.

What can you do? Send a letter (pre-written, you can add your own comments):