There are a lot of misconceptions, myths, and misunderstandings regarding the role that highways and cars play in our economy, and the impact they have on our environment and communities. Many of these are coming to the fore with the Bradford Bypass. Here we address some of them.
The provincial government wants to build a highway connecting the 404 with the 400, which would pass on the northern side of Bradford and run through a portion of the Holland Marsh.
The above photo was taken by Jeff Laidlaw.
2002 – Environmental Assessment
2008 – Simcoe County includes link in its Master Transportation Plan.
2008 – Highway is not included in the Growth Plan.
2021 – Bradford ByPass is mentioned in the provincial budget in section outlining money to be spent on highway construction and maintenance.
The provincial government is proposing a highway that would connect the 404 with the 400. The proposed route passes along the northern edge of Bradford, and through portions of the Holland Marsh.
Outdated Environmental Assessment
Increases Car Use in Climate Crisis
Runs through the Greenbelt
Why is it a concern?
There are a number of major concerns with respect to this project:
The province would allow so-called “early works”, which include bridges, so proceed before key studies on the impacts they might have on wildlife are completed. This is putting the cart before the horse, to use a well worn analogy, and in effect is saying that the project will proceed regardless of the outcome of studies. This is the opposite of evidence-based planning.
Outdated Environmental Assessment
The Environmental Assessment the project is using was done 23 years ago, before the two major land-use plans in the area, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the Greenbelt Plan, had been created.
These plans exist for a reason. The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is intended to enhance and protect the health of Lake Simcoe, and the Greenbelt Plan delimits lands to be protected from urban growth, which is most often in the form of sprawl.
Basing a project on an EA that pre-dates these plans, such that the concerns these plans address aren’t taken into account, effectively nullifies them.
Further, the EA was contingent on the completion of further studies, including archaeological assessments, stormwater management, hydrological systems, noise, and compliance monitoring. The province is proposing that the highway be exempted from these additional studies.
Issues of concern that are have received support from necessary levels of government and are currently being implemented.
Issues that have the support of the municipality but are waiting on approval from the province or another entity.
Issues that have been proposed but have not yet received the support of the municipality.
Issues of concern, such as MZOs, that have been denied by the province but that are still progressing at the local level.
Issues that have been successfully resolved.
Subject Lands Outline
GO Train Line and Stops
500 m High Risk Air Pollution
The proposed route is anticipated to negatively impact high quality woodlands, the Holland Marsh, Provincially Significant Wetlands, and significant wildlife habitat. These are the direct impacts.
There are additional, and perhaps far more significant, impacts that will result from building infrastructure that enables an increase in single vehicle car use.
At a time when we are facing a climate emergency, when it is becoming increasingly clear that our inability to address it is leading us towards a worst case scenario, continuing to base our communities around a reliance on cars as the primary mode of transportation is extremely irresponsible.
All major infrastructure projects – all publicly funded projects – should require a full climate change assessment. It could not be more clear that the public interest is directly tied to addressing the impacts of climate change, and accordingly no public money should be spent that exacerbates the crisis. This project profoundly misses that mark.
Furthermore, there are consequences to communities built around cars that aren’t as evident, including costs associated with the health impacts, such as from lack of exercise due to reliance on cars rather than walking and cycling or from the more direct consequences of car crashes and related injuries.
It is also likely that there will be economic impacts to the town, with development being drawn toward the highway and associated traffic, and away from the downtown. This form of development is most suited to larger commercial operators, and the jobs offered often pay less than what a smaller, locally based business provides.
This development pattern has been repeated just about every time a highway has been built near a town, and it can seriously impact the ability of local businesses to remain viable.
One of the main argument proponents are making in favour of this project is that it will reduce commute times. It is highly unlikely this will be the case in the long term. Evidence shows, repeatedly, that building and increasing car infrastructure does not ease congestion, rather the opposite happens. This is known as “induced demand.”
Basically, induced demand is when the increased capacity of a road leads to increased development along the road and increased use of that road. Think of what happens with Waze and the alternate routes it shows drivers to help them get around heavy traffic – before long those alternate routes become clogged themselves.
For a more detailed explanation watch the video below.
With induced demand what we will end up with is over a billion dollars spent (which could otherwise be spent on enhancing transit options such as the GO line), increased sprawl, and increased congestion. In other words, after all has been said and done it is highly likely that we will find ourselves confronted with the same dilemma, though with a greatly degraded environment.
Finally, the costs associated with car dependant communities1Report – The Unbearable Costs of Sprawl (Congress for New Urbanism)2Report – Suburban Sprawl: Exposing Hidden Costs, Identifying Innovations (Smart Prosperity Institute)3Report – The High Costs of Sprawl (Environmental Defence) – the key characteristic of sprawl – are higher than those associated with complete, walkable communities. This cost is passed on to taxpayers.
How Can You Get Involved?
- Use our action tool to send a message to area MPPs that projects like the Bypass cannot be allow to threaten the health of Lake Simcoe.
- Learn more by watching our webinar, done on March 16th, adding the issue. (Find it above as well.)
- Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed on how you can help grow the Greenbelt and stop wasteful sprawl.
- Oh, and you can listen to our podcast episode with Laura Bowman of EcoJustice where we talk about exactly this issue! 👇👇