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Green leader renews call for cancellation of Bradford Bypass

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In Barrie
Mar 1st, 2022
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Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner hosted a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon calling on Premier Doug Ford to cancel plans for the Bradford Bypass |

From OrilliaMatters, February 26, 2022
By Natasha Philpott

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner continues to call on Premier Doug Ford to cancel plans for the Bradford Bypass highway project.

Schreiner calls the highway “a climate and economic disaster.”

“It would slice through the Greenbelt, pave over 42 acres of the Holland Marsh, destroy 96 acres of wildlife habitat and 25 acres of provincially significant wetlands,” he said at a virtual news conference Feb. 25 with the executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Margaret Prophet.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada recently announced it will not revisit its decision that refused the request from environmental groups for a federal impact assessment designation for the highway.

Schreiner said the highway would further pollute the already fragile Lake Simcoe and increase flood risk, pumping 87 million kilograms of climate pollution into the air each year, adding that most local residents don’t want the highway — referring to a poll conducted by Lake Simcoe Watch in November 2021.

The poll of six questions was answered by 900 residents from Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Barrie-Innisfil and York-Simcoe ridings.

One of the questions asked if they supported the building of the 16-km link between Highways 400 and 404. Forty-eight per cent responded “No.”

“Local momentum is growing against this highway,” said Prophet. “Despite what some people may want to believe, the concerns about this Greenbelt highway are driven by the local people who live in the regions directly affected by it.”

Despite the results of the Lake Simcoe Watch poll question, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer maintained that residents do want the highway, and want it built properly.

“They (residents) have made their voices clear through our democratic processes and expect governments to deliver on election promises,” said Keffer.

But Schreiner and Prophet believe building highways is not the answer to traffic congestion. Instead, they call for government to invest in the building of livable, affordable communities that don’t require long, costly commutes to work.

“Communities where people can work, live, play and shop,” said Schreiner.

Prophet said the bypass project lacks vision and evidence, and cited estimates that Lake Simcoe will have toxic salt levels from the use of winter road salt within 37 years.

“So how does a highway provide hope for future generations?” Prophet demanded. “We are going in blind without a budget, without full studies, without any consideration for our climate and for Lake Simcoe.”

“Doug Ford is insisting on bulldozing ahead with this damaging highway that the Toronto Region Board of Trade estimates will cost $1.5 billion,” said Schreiner.

When asked what the cost of the highway would be, the Ministry of Transportation acknowledged the information is not currently available.

“As we bring this project to market, we want to preserve our position in the commercial process. As such, the ministry will not be releasing cost estimates prior to the award of contracts in order to protect the procurement processes,” said senior communications advisor and press secretary for MTO Dakota Brasier.

The award of the contract for Early Works is expected to be made next month, “to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” said Brasier, adding that without strong action, gridlock in the region 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 sure that our transportation system works for all the people of Ontario. That’s why we’re making historic investments in transit and transportation infrastructure to dramatically expand and enhance 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 anticipated to see significant savings in travel time when using the Bradford Bypass compared to existing routes along local roads, saving commuters up to 35 minutes per trip,” Brasier said.

The Ministry noted that public consultation is an important component of the Bradford Bypass preliminary esign stage and project-specific assessment of environmental impact process.

“The project team has and will continue to consult with Indigenous communities, municipalities, environmental agencies, and concerned stakeholders throughout the preliminary design of the project,” insisted Brasier.

The project scope encompasses the widening of County Road 4 (Yonge Street) from two lanes to four and the addition of a multi-use path on the east side of County Road 4, working in co-ordination with the County of Simcoe. 

“This ongoing work is to refine the engineering and update the Study to reflect changes since the original plan was approved in 2002,” said Brasier.

As part of the study, Brasier said an environmental conditions report (ECR) will identify potential environmental impacts, and an environmental impact assessment report (EIAR) will include a final description of the freeway alignment and design, environmental impact evaluation results, mitigation measures, monitoring activities, and potentially required permits and approvals.

The Ontario government is committed to fully funding the construction of the Bradford Bypass and is following through on its promise to improve and invest in the province’s transportation corridors to get people moving within the region, connect people to jobs, make life easier and support a strong economy,” said Brasier.  “This study will follow the approved assessment process outlined in Ontario Regulation 697/21 that will allow the ministry to move the project forward in an environmentally protective way. The project team will carry forward previous environmental commitments made during the 2002 Route Planning and Environmental Assessment Study.”

Brasier noted the following environmental studies will be carried out during the Preliminary Design stage:

  • Agricultural Impact Assessment
  • Air Quality Impact Assessment
  • Archaeological Assessment (Stages 2, 3, & 4, as required)
  • Cultural Heritage Assessment
  • Drainage and Hydrology
  • Erosion and Sediment Control Risk Assessment
  • Fish and Fish Habitat Existing Conditions and Impact Assessment Report
  • Fluvial Geomorphology
  • Groundwater Impact Assessment
  • Land Use and Property Impact Assessment
  • Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment
  • Preliminary Landscape Composition Plan
  • Snowdrift Assessment
  • Terrestrial Ecosystems Existing Conditions and Impact Assessment Report (including an assessment of vegetation and vegetation communities, wildlife and wildlife habitat, species at risk and designated natural areas); and,
  • Waste and Excess Materials Management Plan

 

“All environmental requirements such as carrying out consultations 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 through a decision-making process that would be consistent with the expectations of the Environmental Assessment Act,” Brasier said.  “This government takes environmental protection seriously and is proposing a path forward that will ensure environmental protections are not compromised while building this much needed project quickly and safely.”

The Ontario Green Party is committed to protecting 25 per cent of Ontario land and water by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030. Schreiner and the Coalition said they will continue to oppose construction of he highway.

“If the federal Liberals and the provincial Conservatives won’t stand up for the environment, the Ontario Greens will,” said Schreiner. “We need to stop this highway now.”

To view the press conference from Friday afternoon, click here.

Read the article here

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