Ford government reviewing cancellation of Highway 403

December 6, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Joshua Santos

A cancelled major highway project is receiving another look by the Progressive Conservative government.

Plans for the GTA West Transportation Corridor were brought up during the government’s fall economic statement. The government plans to reactive an environment assessment (EA) which the previous government paused and then cancelled.  Also known as Highway 413, it would connect Vaughan to Guelph while running through southern Caledon.

“It was a topic of conversation during the election process. We made a commitment of restarting the environment assessment to identify and address any transportation needs in the corridor,” said Jeff Yurek, Ontario Minister of Transportation.

The Town of Caledon, according to a news release, is supportive of the GTA West Transportation Corridor EA resuming to finalize a preferred alignment to a much-needed East to West highway.

“The continuation of the EA on the GTA West Corridor has been an advocacy priority for Council for a number of years,” said Mayor Allan Thompson. “Just last August, we met with the new Ford Government and the Ministry of Transportation at the last AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) Conference to speak about the importance of the new highway to the future of our community.”

The Town said the GTA West Corridor has been identified as one of the key transportation corridors in the Provincial Growth Plan and would address the needs of the local and growing community and would accommodate for future growth, provide mobility options and a better plan for future infrastructure and areas of development.

With companies like Amazon making investments in Caledon, it is important to build capacity for commercial transportation away from local and regional roads, the release states.

The Greater Toronto Area is projected to be the fastest growing region of the province with its population increasing by 2.8 million, or 40.8 per cent, to reach almost 9.7 million by 2041, according to the Ontario ministry of finance population projections. The GTA’s share of provincial population is projected to rise from 48.3 per cent in 2017 to 52.3 per cent in 2041.

A recent Metrolinx study noted that traffic congestion will cost GTA residents and businesses $7 billion a year by 2031. An estimated $1.8 billion worth of goods travels through Peel Region.

“We need to ensure that we have the ability to move people and goods in a timely manner and we want to make sure that everything we do will kickstart the economy,” said Mr. Yurek. “This environmental assessment will determine if those needs are present.”

Not everyone is on board, however. Debbe Crandall sits on the Town of Caledon committee of adjustment. She believes 400-series highways represent an old way of moving goods and people, while making them dependent on their cars.

She is also concerned about the effect it will have on the Greenbelt and the Niagara Escarpment.

“It is south of the Oak Ridges Moraine, said Ms. Crandall. “It is not affected directly, but the land is all connected. The buffering systems that protect the countryside for the Oak Ridges Marine and the Niagara Escarpment will be disrupted and hurt. There’s an indirect impact on the Oak Ridges Marine but a very direct impact to the Greenbelt and the Niagara Escarpment because it’s going to be going right through it.”

Concerns are also raised that the highway will have direct detrimental environmental impact on small headwater streams that feed into the Humber, West Humber, Etobicoke and Credit rivers.

“The Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine are there to protect those headwater areas,” said Ms. Crandall. If we do a true environmental assessment, each of those stream tributaries have to be protected somehow through some road spanning or bridges.”

She presented information, as a representative of the Oak Moraine Coalition, to a three-person review panel where she found that road widening of existing networks would meet the objectives of the environmental assessment. However, the panel at the time decided to move forward with the highway.

“They only looked at the economic spinoffs of the highways themselves,” she said. “They did not consider any kind of economic spinoff from expanded rail. It was extremely skewed assessment of the economic benefits.

“We cling to something that we know. Our economy has been built on a whole network of car-based, road-based transportation.”

She said there can be economic benefits without the highway but the panel hasn’t looked at it because it’s new.

Mr. Yurek said they’re doing everything they can do protect land in areas as needed and minimize any damage that may occur.

“I’m very well aware of the importance of our farmlands and of course this environmental assessment will include that,” he said.

“Right now, we’re just doing the work to resume the environmental assessment for this highway corridor and going forward we’ll have a formal assessment.”

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