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Reconsider Your Support for Bradford Bypass

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In Barrie
Nov 19th, 2021
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“Reconsider Your Support for Bradford Bypass” local groups ask Lake Simcoe municipalities in light of growing public pressure, faulty process and high costs

November 18 2021

Simcoe County, ON – Following four high profile “Greenbelt Not Asphalt” protests against the building of new highways in environmentally sensitive areas last weekend, local advocates sent a letter to all Lake Simcoe municipalities this week to ask them to reconsider their level of support for the project. In light of concerns about changes to process and costs, the groups asked municipalities across the watershed to demonstrate their concern for Lake Simcoe by requesting the Federal government conduct an Impact Assessment.

The letter, penned by Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, points out that Barrie, Brock, and Georgina Councils (and to some degree Innisfil) asked for greater scrutiny and protection of Lake Simcoe through the Environmental Assessment process for the proposed Bradford Bypass. But on October 7th, the province of Ontario did what the environmental organizations and community partners warned of – they exempted the Bradford Bypass from the Environmental Assessment process. “As a result, there will be even less transparency than before and less protection of the environment,” the letter reads.

Even East Gwillimbury and Bradford West Gwillimbury, whose Councils support the Bypass, have routing change requests that are yet unaddressed. Meanwhile, the province is racing ahead with “early works” such as building the interchange at Yonge St. just north of Bradford, before studies and design are complete. “Starting to build while ignoring local requests for route improvements is not a brilliant way to serve the needs of local commuters,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

Ministry of Transportation’s studies demonstrate that congestion on the 400 and 404 will be worse with the Bypass than without. This raises questions about how other watershed municipalities who depend on those north-south routes for commuters and movement of goods will benefit from the project. While the province announced a potential $800M price tag, a recent estimate puts it well over $2 billion, to be paid by all Ontarians. The significant cost of this highway should concern all Ontarians, especially those municipalities whose economy and quality of life depend on a healthy Lake Simcoe.

As a result of these significant changes, three local community organizations submitted a new request to the Federal Minister of the Environment last week, asking for a Federal Impact Assessment of the Bradford Bypass, in part because of the province’s move to exempt this project from completing the Environmental Assessment.

The letter to councils ends with, “We understand that municipal Councils need to balance many competing and contradictory interests. But your aim should always be to make sure that resources are spent intelligently. Thus, we urge you to request a Federal Impact Assessment in order to stop the half-baked, cloaked in secrecy, irresponsible, future boondoggle highway proposal. It does not address municipal traffic and routing concerns, it will be bad for Lake Simcoe, and if you support it, it will hang around your neck as an example of a completely foolish and outdated, massively expensive piece of infrastructure that will not fix the problem. This needs a refresh, and that is what a Federal Impact Assessment will allow.”

The full letter is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14S2YdP3rKBK8o8zF1quipZKeMVxg2MhuWFydenXEnh8/edit?usp=sharing

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