Research: Air Quality Impacts of the Bradford Bypass

The proposed Bradford Bypass highway will negatively impact the air quality of residents, though to what extent and where is more difficult to determine. Our research shows that proponents haven’t thoroughly studied these impacts, and attempts to provide some further information regarding what they might be.

This is a post dealing with the impacts that construction of the Bradford Bypass could have on the surrounding community and, more broadly, on the GTA and Ontario.

To view more content related to the proposed highway visit our Bradford Bypass page.

A rendering of what a Bradford Bypass bridge could look like crossing over the East Holland River. Credit SCGC.

New research by SCGC shows that the negative impacts from construction of the Bradford Bypass could be more wide-spread and severe than what is shown by proponents, specifically in the final Environmental Conditions Report.

Two maps were created to illustrate findings, highlighting additional information regarding where these impacts could be felt, as well as the severity of impacts.

The first map identifies Critical Receptor locations in the Bradford area where the impacts from degraded air quality might be most severe, is shown below. The second incorporates the dispersion distances of common contaminants, and combines that with the CR location’s proximity to each other, weighted by proximity to the highway and contamination dispersion areas, to illustrate where the greatest cause for concern might be.

Critical Receptor Map

Traffic related air pollution (TRAP) is both a well-known risk and emerging concern to public health.

The fact of negative health impacts of TRAP, which can be long lasting, cumulative, and severe, is well established among researchers and public health practitioners, though perhaps less well by the public. As the technology of our vehicles changes, however, and as research methods evolve new concerns regarding negative health impacts continue to emerge.

In the Final Environmental Conditions Report (ECR), prepared by AECON for the Ministry of Transportation, 20 Critical Receptor (CR) locations are identified. These are defined in the ECR as, ‘“retirement homes, hospitals, childcare centres, schools and similar institutional buildings” within the Ministry’s Air Quality Guide.”1See page 208 of the ECR, linked above.

We conducted a desktop review, the method used by AECON in ECR for their assessment of CR locations, and found an additional 11 CR locations that match the types outlined above.

We found a further 20 locations within the study area that we believe, while not strictly within the definition, represent locations where risk of health impacts due to poor air quality is heightened, and should thus also be classified as CRs. These include recreational facilities, such as outdoor sports fields, parks, playgrounds, as well as community and recreation centres.

On the map below AECON/MTO identified CR locations are shown in blue, while locations found by us are shown in orange. A triangle indicates retirement homes, cross schools, star daycare centres, and ellipse recreational facilities.

In total 31 additional CR locations were identified where poor air quality could have an out-sized impact on human health.

Mapping showing where critical receptors for air quality impacts were identified by the MTO and AECON, as well as additional locations identified by research conducted independently by SCGC.

This research discovered an additional 31 locations where degraded air quality due to highway traffic could have an out-sized impact on the health of children and other residents.

Click the map to view a larger size.

While research into the health impacts of short-term, high-intensity exposure to TRAP is still emerging, concerns already exist that strongly indicate a prudent approach, mitigating exposure where and when possible, would be wise.

Health Canada, together with the Sport Information and Resource Centre, provide guidance to this effect,2Understanding Air Quality: A Guiding Document for Sport Organizations while recognizing that better understanding remains necessary to protect the health of sport participants.

What should give more cause for concern regarding sport participation among the youth in areas affected by TRAP is that young cardio-vascular systems are still developing. While this may mean there is more capacity for them to develop out of negative impacts, it also means that potential impacts have out-sized influence on physiological development.

Sport participants, furthermore, are more likely to continue to engage in strenuous exercise, and to the extent they do so in areas impacted by TRAP the likelihood of developing negative health outcomes increases.

This all strongly supports, we believe, the inclusion of recreational and exercise facilities in air quality studies and the impacts TRAP may have on human health.

Select locations are highlighted, below, to show instances of critical receptors that were not included in the Environmental Conditions Report.

Hover over the arrow hotspots for a description of the highlighted location.

Henderson Memorial Park, located at Line 9 and Sideroad 10, is a recreational facility that includes a playground, splash pad, sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, and more.

This facility is a prime example of what we believe should be included in the MTOs Critical Receptor air quality mapping, but which is not.

Bradford Children's Academy offers daycare for infants and children, as well as before and after school care for children up to 10 years old.

Website

Holy Trinity Catholic High School has several hundred students, and is one of two secondary schools in Bradford.

Website

Lions Park is one of the most popular public parks in Bradford, with a ball diamonds, outdoor ice rink, basketball and tennis courts, splash pad, and playground.

Numerous public parks like this, where people, including young children, spend significant amounts of time outdoors were not included in the critical receptor research by MTO and AECON on the impacts of poor air quality resulting from construction of the Bradford Bypass highway.

Traffic Related Air Pollution (TRAP) Map

This map shows areas where that risk may be most profound along the proposed route, though there are caveats that should be understood that may increase the severity of risk.

There are two key elements to the map, dispersal zones indicating the extent at which identified TRAPs are reduced to background levels, and an illustration of Critical Receptor locations identified in our Critical Receptor Map.

Mapping showing where critical receptors for air quality impacts were identified by the MTO and AECON, as well as additional locations identified by research conducted independently by SCGC.

This research discovered an additional 28 locations where degraded air quality due to highway traffic could have an out-sized impact on the health of children and other residents.

Click the map to view a larger size.

As with the identification of Critical Receptor locations on the previous map, this map includes locations where people, including children, spend time outdoors, including, in particular, engaged in strenuous activity like sports.

By combining proximity to each other, as well as to the dispersal zones of pollutants, a heatmap is generated to show where exposure is likely to be most severe. While those living within the darker red areas are more likely to be exposed to TRAP, this does not account for more fluid dynamics of weather patterns, which may alter how pollutants are dispersed.

Another caveat is, while the severity of exposure tends to increase with closer proximity to the highway, ultra-fine particulate matter (UFP) is generally dispersed more broadly than larger size particulate matter. UFP is particularly concerning with regard to its impact on health as it is able to easily translocate within the body, passing through tissue and into organs, including the brain.

As a result, a person may experience a high severity of exposure at distance from the highway, somewhat in contradiction to the closer, proximity based, modelling that the heatmap indicates here.

MTO's Future Modelling Based on Faulty Assumptions

The ECR notes that “there are anticipated improvements in vehicles combustion efficiency, with older models retired from the vehicle fleet. Therefore, the expected impact from emissions in 2051 and 2061 should result in greater reductions than present for in the 2041 scenario.”3ECR June, 2023. Page 345

There are two points that need to be made with respect to this.

False Choice Dilemma

First, this argument, as with the entire approval process for this project, comes very close to exemplifying a false dichotomy in the sense that, almost exclusively, the choices are presented as either build a highway to solve an increase in traffic, or don’t build a highway and suffer the consequences of congestion due to increased traffic.

The air quality modelling, and associated assumptions regarding emissions, only hold if a highway is seen as the only solution to enabling transportation in the Bradford area.

Alternatives, such as stronger policy direction in support of complete communities, along with investment in establishing efficient regional and inter-regional transit, ideally with electrified rail, would accomplish transportation objectives, and improve the quality of life in our communities at a cheaper cost and with less emissions than the old build more roads and highways approach.

While there is a nod towards a “no-build” scenario, this is discounted due to an absence of traffic modelling for the projected time horizon.

From our perspective this betrays a lack of interest in finding answers regarding what the impact of this project may be on the health of those living nearby.

Relatively simple modelling can be done based on available population and uptake of either personal vehicles, whether ICE or EV, or uptake of mass- and active-transit options, such as what would be available with a commitment to building 15-minute communities and inter-city rail.

Ignoring, or Unaware of, the Research?

The second point addresses the claim that improvements in combustion efficiency will result in emissions reductions. A similar claim is made by oil companies operating in Alberta’s tar sands, and is effectively an intensity based argument. 

The math here only works to the extent that the number of vehicles, or the number of barrels of oil, remains the same.

Aggregate emissions may be reduced in this case, but if the number of vehicles grows, which is the business case for building this highway in the first place, then the aggregate amount of emissions also grows.

A reliance on the transition from Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) to Electric Vehicles (EVs) is implied in this argument as well, and it also needs to be addressed because there is a lot of  misinformation regarding how EVs impact the environment.

Even with a reduction in the number of vehicles travelling over this route, which is highly unlikely to the case since the case for building it in the first place is a projected increase in vehicle use, it is likely that UFP emissions will increase.

Electric vehicles, due to their increased weight, cause far higher amounts of UFP to be dispersed into the environment than lighter vehicles, and than tail pipe emissions from an equivalent amount of ICE vehicles.

Graphic from The Guardian, showing amount of ultra fine particulate emissions due to tires and due to tailpipe emissions. Credit The Guardian.

This graph, from The Guardian, shows how much particulate matter tires produce relative to tailpipe exhaust.

Source: Car tyres produce vastly more particle pollution than exhausts, tests show

Much of the UFP comes from the friction between the tire and the road, with particulate, in effect, being rubbed off the tire and cast into the air. There is also evidence particulate matter from tires is a major source of micro-plastics that are increasingly polluting waterways.

Brake dust is another concern, though evidence is somewhat mixed whether this will increase with EVs, which utilize regenerative braking and so don’t engage brake discs as often.

The MTO/AECOM seem to have either simply ignored these findings, or to be unaware of them. Neither of these positions is acceptable given the public health implications.

A Public Health Approach

The myth that more people means more cars and traffic needs to be dispelled. More people in fact generate the opportunity for more efficient and accessible transit options. All that is needed for this to happen is sound policy and political will.

One of the best choices local governments can make to combat climate change is to increase the density of their communities and move people away from cars and towards active and public transportation.

Pursuing this approach not only improves public health outcomes through more active lifestyles, it also solves the tension that arises when the increase in population drives an increased demand for road infrastructure, which in turn negatively impacts the health of residents.

It is increasingly clear that policies that promote increased vehicle traffic should be seen as a last resort, and implemented only where no other options are possible.

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Arial photo of the Holland Marsh, with Lake Simcoe in the distance. Credit Jeff Laidlaw.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Letter to the Editor

Freedom of Information requests obtained by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition show that the province is not being upfront regarding the Bradford Bypass.

February 20, 2023 - Simcoe County

Letter to editor response to article “No timeline yet for controversial Bradford Bypass project.”

Can we stop pretending that the province doesn’t have answers about its controversial Bradford Bypass project and instead recognize the misinformation for what it is? In the article quoted, the journalist outlines that the project doesn’t have a timeline yet. That is simply not true. They have a timeline but chose not to share it.

Freedom of Information requests by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition show that the province is working on a timeframe of completion no earlier than 2032. These are documents straight from the MTO. The timeframe was corroborated and reported in The Toronto Star and The Narwhal.

It is shameful that instead of answering council’s questions directly, MTO decided that they’d rather not outline that it could be at least a decade before this highway is ready for use, if it even comes.

To those of us who follow this closely, the misinformation and hiding of facts is par for the course. What else haven’t government officials and consultants been upfront about?

Well for starters, the cost.

Infographic showing how much the cost of the Bradford Bypass has ballooned, and what that money could be spent on instead. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

In its recent report of government expenditures, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario notes that the government is vastly under-spending in a number of areas.

We believe that these areas, including health, education, and children’s services, are important and that they should be priorities.

The Auditor General reported that this 16 km highway could cost a staggering $2-4 billion – that’s according to MTO’s own calculations. That’s a whopping $125,000,000 per kilometer you and I will pay for the Bypass. That’s using the lower figure. Use the upper end of their estimates (when’s the last time large construction projects come in on budget?) and you get a figure of a quarter billion dollars, yes $250 million, per kilometer that taxpayers are on the hook for.

We have the internal documents that show the government knew of this new cost in 2021, prior to them ramming ahead with it. Even so, there was no effort to inform the public that the project’s price tag had ballooned at least 300 percent from the $800,000 estimate project staff and Minister Caroline Mulroney were touting.

This project is still almost a decade away before it’s completed. How much more of our tax dollars is this government going to waste on it?

What else have they not been upfront about?

The size of the highway.

We knew there was talk about potentially widening the highway to six lanes. But yet again this seems to be part of an effort to minimize impacts and mislead the public. We know that in fact this may be an eight lane highway – double the size.

This means double the loss of Greenbelt, double the loss of wetlands, double the air pollution and double the noise pollution. Again, this was corroborated and reported in the Toronto Star and Narwhal investigations.

Map showing locations of highways that the Ford government plans to build, and the impact they would have on the Greenbelt and on farmland. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

There are 3 highways in the pipeline for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of Ontario. All of them will significantly impact the Greenbelt, as well as prime farmland.

So instead of the headline making it sound like there’s no information available, let’s call it for what it is – misinformation,obstruction, and wasteful use of taxpayers money by this government. Because, like us, they know that in a time when people are wanting solutions – better healthcare and good use of public funds – communicating the truth of the matter would just expose this highway as another boondoggle – a gas plant scandal in our own backyard.

Auditor General Report Confirms that the Bradford Bypass is a Boondoggle

Media Statement

December 1, 2022 - Simcoe County

On November 30th, the Auditor General of Ontario – an independent officer of the legislature who is tasked with ensuring government spending and programs give Ontarians best value and efficiency – outlined the ballooning costs of the Bradford Bypass and how best practices were not being followed. We’ve been saying this all along.

Internal Ministry estimates show that the Bypass could cost as much as $4 billion dollars. This is a 400% increase from the original budget that the Minister of Transportation begrudgingly announced publicly in 2021 after we demanded transparency around costs of the project. We know from internal documents that the Ministry has known their estimate was a lowball since at least November 2021 and yet there has been no effort that we’ve seen to update municipal partners, local stakeholders or the public about this important piece of information.

The Auditor General also noted that at this point, the Ministry does not have the money to fulfil all of its highway promises. This begs the question of when this project will ever be fully delivered if a cash-strapped Ministry has to start making hard choices about which projects proceed. We have asked when this highway will be completed and ready for use, but again, the answers aren’t forthcoming.

The Bradford Bypass has been sold as a traffic solution. Worryingly, the Auditor General found that travel demand forecasts calculated by consultants are not verified by the Ministry or by independent experts. Despite internal reports that show the Bypass will be congested after construction and that congestion will worsen on highways 400 and 404, the province continues to intentionally mislead Ontarians using unverified traffic studies.

Let’s be clear – the Bradford Bypass was just the first step in opening up huge swaths of land for Greenbelt developers and more sprawl development. The studies they are now doing have been streamlined to a point of being meaningless while other important studies such as impacts to Lake Simcoe and climate are not being done. Protections for our wetlands and waterways have been all but gutted due to Bill 23. Another 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt is slated to be removed to allow speculators to further cash in. The vision that developers want for this region is coming into view and the expense of public health and public funds.

Altogether the province has produced a flimsy case for building this highway. The groups fighting the Bypass are asking for a transparent reconsideration of routes, including regional road improvements, that could reduce costs, provide congestion relief and lower environmental impacts. In all, this provides value for money for taxpayers. Further, we question spending $4 billion on a highway amid healthcare and education sector crises.

Lake Simcoe Watch recently released the results of a November 2022 Oraclepoll survey of which shows that public support for the Bradford Bypass highway (one-third of which traverses Greenbelt Protected Countryside) has fallen to a weak 20 per cent. The same survey shows that support for building homes on the Greenbelt is only 27 per cent.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

The impact of new highways on the Greenbelt is likely to be felt far and wide, our mapping shows.

Highway Construction and Aggregate Mining in the Greenbelt

Aggregate Mining in the Greenbelt

New research released by Gravel Watch Ontario, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Environmental Defence suggest that massive amounts of aggregates for the Bradford Bypass and 413 highways will come from pits in the 905 and the Greenbelt.

Mining these aggregates will have serious impacts on nearby communities and must be addressed in environmental reviews of the proposed highways.

According to the research, building the two highways will require approximately 3 million tonnes of new aggregate, and will increase truck traffic within affected communities by over 130,000 truckloads during construction.

The analysis shows that several communities within the 905 region are more at risk of becoming the future source of the highways’ aggregate because of their proximity to the proposed routes of the highways, the amount of potential aggregate resources available, and concentration of existing permits within particular areas.

Highlights

  • A total of 288 square kilometers within the study area is dedicated to active aggregate pits;
  • 39% of aggregate sites within the study area are found within the Greenbelt’s boundaries, while the Greenbelt covers only 29% of the study area;
  • Caledon, Adjala-Tosorontio, and Whitchurch-Stouffville, are likely to be impacted by aggregate demands for these projects the most;
  • Unrehabilitated site data from the government is unreliable, with record dates limited to a time between 2006 and 2010. Viewing sites with satellite imagery show a use-mix of what look like former aggregate pits, agricultural lands, and residential areas;
  • Furthermore, some sites overlap with each other.
Map: Municipal Vulnerability to Aggregate Activity for New Highway Construction in the GTA
Map of municipalities within a 50 km area around the Bradford Bypass and 413 highways showing their vulnerability do aggregate mining for related construction resources. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
Click for larger version.

This choropleth map is segmented by municipality, and weighted according to a scoring system that combines four scores:

  • “PER_SCORE”, which is the percent of the municipality’s area covered by sand and gravel resources, excluding built up areas;
  • “DIST_SCORE”, which is a measure of the distance that the municipality is from the respective projects;
  • “TON_SCORE”, which is a measure of the total tonnage allowed in the municipality;
  • and “DEP_SCORE”, which is a measure of the depths of the sand and gravel resources contained within the municipality.

PER_SCORE

For the PER_SCORE the sand and gravel mapping, which were separate files, were combined, the built up areas in the municipality were then subtracted from the combined file, and the result was then measured as a percent of the total area of the municipality. Scores are from 1 to 4, representing 25% increments.

DIST_SCORE

The distance scores are derived from the 20 kilometre and the 50 kilometre distances from the proposed projects. The 50 kilometer radius from the projects is based on a conservative estimate, provided by Gravel Watch Ontario, of the distance from which aggregate resources are normally sourced for projects, with that distance sometimes being expanded outward to 70 kilometers. A score of 2 was given if the municipality was within the 20 kms radius, and 1 if it was within the 50 kms radius. For municipalities within the 20 km radii of both projects a total of 4 was given, and likewise, if a municipality was within the 20 km radius of one project and the 5 km radius of another, it got a score of 3.

TON_SCORE

The tonnage score is based on a decile, with municipalities receiving a score of between 1 and 10, where 10 represents the highest total tonnage permitted within the municipality.

DEP_SCORE

A depth score of aggregate resources based on mapping by the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) was included to give an additional metric of impact. Depth data are provided by OGS in four categories: Less than 1.5m; 1.5m to 3m; 3m to 6m; and Greater than 6m. DEP_SCORES were apportioned from 1 to 4, with 1 for 1.5m and 4 for Great than 6m.

Sources

“Aggregate site authorized – active”, Land Information Ontario. Info updated November 16, 2018. Data updated December 15, 2021. Downloaded November 25, 2021. (Link)(Data)

Aggregate Resources of Ontario—2020”,Ontario Geological Survey. Downloaded June 30, 2021. (Link)

Greenbelt outer boundary”, Land Information Ontario. Info updated August 6, 2021. Data updated May 18, 2017. Downloaded January 2, 2022. (Link)

Mapbox Base Monochrome”, Mapbox (personal account). Created January 10, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2022. (Link)

“Ontario Road Network (ORN) Road Net Element”, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Info updated September 27, 2019. Data updated January 5, 2022. (Link)

“GTA_West_RevisedRoute_August2020_Lat_Lon”, Environmental Defence/As The Crow Flies Cartography. Received November 30, 2021.

“Municipal Boundary – Lower and Single Tier”, Land Information Ontario. Info updated June 4, 2019. Data updated April 20, 2021. (Link)

Bryan Smith, of Gravel Watch Ontario, has been long involved with local aggregate issues and knows what kind of burden this will place on the rural communities that could be affected.

“These highway proposals are being touted as a net benefit, but the communities where the pits and quarries would make a Swiss cheese of the landscape will not feel the same. From increased truck traffic, wear and tear on local roads, reduced air quality, to issues with groundwater, aggregate comes at a high cost to the host municipality and its residents. There is no net benefit. Consequently, many municipalities are asking the province to make aggregate pay their fair share.”

The rock, sand and gravel extraction and its impact on communities up to 50 kilometers from the proposed routes is just another example of how the province is pushing forward these highway proposals without a full examination of their costs and impacts.

Map: Aggregate Mining in Ontario's Greenbelt
Map showing the density of aggregate activity, as well as the Greenbelt and proposed routes for the Bradford Bypass and 413 highways. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
Click for larger version.

The “Aggregate Site Heatmap” is meant to show clustering of aggregate sites. This map uses one source of information shown two different ways – a heatmap, which draws attention to the density of sites, and the sites themselves, shown as polygons.

The heatmap uses data from the “Aggregate site authorized – active” file provided by the provincial government, with the sites, which are provided in polygon form, converted into centroid points. The size of the polygons is calculated into “AREA” and the centroid points are weighted by this metric.

The Greenbelt boundary is included to indicate impacts that aggregate mining may have on an area many Ontarians believe is protected from development, as well as industrial, activity. While development, understood in a strict sense of housing, may be restricted, the knock on effects of road and highway construction, this data shows, are largely not.

A measure of aggregate impact on the Greenbelt was arrived at by calculating the surface area of aggregate mines located within the Greenbelt AND within the study area. The result shows that 29% or the study area is covered by Greenbelt and 39% of the surface area of aggregate pits located within the study area are to be found within the Greenbelt boundaries.

Sources

“Aggregate site authorized – active”, Land Information Ontario. Info updated November 16, 2018. Data updated December 15, 2021. Downloaded November 25, 2021. (Link)(Data)

“Greenbelt outer boundary”, Land Information Ontario. Info updated August 6, 2021. Data updated May 18, 2017. Downloaded January 2, 2022. (Link)

“Mapbox Base Monochrome”, Mapbox (personal account). Created January 10, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2022. (Link)

Ontario Road Network (ORN) Road Net Element”, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Info updated September 27, 2019. Data updated January 5, 2022. (Link)

“GTA_West_RevisedRoute_August2020_Lat_Lon”, Environmental Defence/As The Crow Flies Cartography. Received November 30, 2021.

“Municipal Boundary – Lower and Single Tier”, >Land Information Ontario. Info updated June 4, 2019. Data updated April 20, 2021. (Link)

Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, is concerned that environmental assessments of the highways won’t be considering the impacts from required aggregate.

“The shocking scale of the aggregate needed to build these highways means impacts will be felt by communities across a number of regions. The federal and provincial governments have an obligation to assess and address these widespread impacts as part of a robust and thorough environmental assessment of the highway projects.”

The mapping also shows that nearly 40 per cent of the aggregate sites likely to supply material for these projects are located within the Greenbelt.

Expansion of those pits puts at risk the crucial ecosystem services the Greenbelt provides, such as clean water, fresh air, healthy food, and habitat for wildlife. These impacts of aggregate extraction on the Greenbelt are compounded by the fact that they are being used, in this case, for projects that run through the Greenbelt, and which will likely lead to increased development pressure on it.

Did you know?

Ontario's Greenbelt provides:

$2.1 billion dollars worth of recreational activity each year.

$224 million dollars worth of flood prevention every year.

$52 million equivalent of carbon absorption every year.

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, believes that the highway proposals are yet another example of how this government has targeted the Greenbelt on behalf of developers.

“We heard promises that “we’re not going to touch the Greenbelt,” and yet this government wants to run two large highways right through it. The demand for aggregate, and the fact that much of it is likely to come from within the Greenbelt, only makes matters worse. The narrow focus on localized impacts creates a situation in which the Greenbelt is left vulnerable to a death by a thousand cuts. The impact of aggregate mining for these highways is a perfect example of this.”

The coalition’s research shows there is little that municipalities can do to protect citizens and ensure a healthy environment in the face of pressure from the aggregate industry.

Tim Gray adds, “The province is knowingly putting communities and the Greenbelt at risk from increased aggregate extraction to build destructive and unnecessary highways. And thanks to recently passed legislation, they have removed almost every tool municipalities used to have to limit or control these impacts. The communities located in these extraction hotspots need to be aware that if these highways go ahead it will impact them, even if they are far from the highways’ routes.”

Take Action

  • Sign the DAMN petition calling for a moratorium on all new applications for aggregate mining in Ontario.
  • Tweet a message to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault asking for a federal impact assessment of the Bradford Bypass.

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Arial photo of the Holland Marsh, with Lake Simcoe in the distance. Credit Jeff Laidlaw.

Bradford Bypass

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.

Read More »

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

The Bradford Bypass - Clearing the Air

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.

Municipalities in the Lake Simcoe region, including just recently Barrie, are being asked to weigh in on the Bradford Bypass, a proposed highway that would run just north of Bradford, through the Greenbelt and Holland Marsh, to connect the 404 and 400 highways.

There have been a number of statements and assertions made in support of the project. Environmental organizations, including ours, and community members argue, however, that these points either don’t hold water, or that they represent ways of planning that are outdated in an age of environmental crises.

Let’s look at some of the main arguments supporters make and why they are wrong.

Argument 1: It isn't our problem

This argument is tied in with jurisdictional concerns, but there’s an important distinction to be made between the political boundary, on the one hand, and the impact of the project on the environment, on the other.

Let’s start with the jurisdictional concerns and then move on to the environmental impact concerns.

It’s a well established political norm to work across political boundaries to address issues that may have an environmental impact. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has members from 195 nations. A less well known, but much older, example is the International Joint Commission, which was established in 1909 and works to address issues affecting the quality of water along the border between Canada and the United States. Much of The Great Lakes are overseen by this body.

Environmental impacts, we now understand very well, are often difficult to contain, particularly when they occur in the fluid dynamics of air and water, and so work across jurisdictional boundaries is crucial to address them. 

Photo of Barrie's waterfront during sunrise.

A more local example of the importance of working across political boundaries to address environmental impacts is our Conservation Authorities, which are established according to the natural boundaries of watersheds, and so attempt to capture, in a sense, the environmental impact of our actions.

Now, to address the more localized impacts and whether a highway in Bradford will affect those of us living in Barrie.

Part of the rationale for building the highway is to accommodate the projected population growth in Simcoe County, not simply the growth that is expected in the Bradford area. The vehicle trips this project is intended to accommodate come, in large part, from surrounding municipalities, including Innisfil and Barrie, which sends commuters down the 400 highway toward Toronto and the GTA. 

(As an aside, there have also been a number of comments made, including by the mayor of Innisfil, that discount the voices of those who don’t live in the immediate area. These voices come from communities the Bypass is meant to serve. Accordingly, the decision of whether to continue to pour public funds into highways and car-centric development will impact how communities are shaped in these surrounding areas, determining, for example, whether there’s money available to ensure residents there have access to well-connected transit and/or safe cycling and walking routes.)

Argument 2: A new highway will reduce emissions and help combat climate change

The notion that a highway will reduce emissions seems to be based on the idea that vehicles stuck in traffic emit more greenhouse gases than those not stuck in traffic.

On the surface this seems like a reasonable argument, but the data, and experience, doesn’t back it up. Below, we cover two of the most glaring reasons why this doesn’t hold. 

Induced Demand

As more roads and highways are built, the consequence is more use of roads and highways – one begets the other. As roads and highways make land more accessible commercial centres are built at interchanges and residential areas are developed, and with this more vehicles flood into the extra capacity that has been created.

This phenomenon is known as “induced demand,” and it has been shown to happen over and over again when roads are expanded and highways built to “ease congestion.”

(Who doesn’t want congestion eased? The problem is that this just doesn’t accomplish that. Want to spend less time stuck in your car? Stop building roads as the primary way of getting everywhere.)

Evidence shows that the eventual result of these efforts to ease congestion is always more congestion. (Some of you may have also noticed that increased demand is exactly the business case proponents are making for the highway, so there’s that, too.)

The Free Burger Analogy

Here’s a great analogy of that helps explain induced demand.

Imagine that 10,000 free hamburgers are placed in the central square of a city, with a lead time of preparation and notice given to the public (as would happen with building a highway).

What would happen?

People would come and eat the hamburgers, and soon there would be none left.

There would soon be a problem, however.

More people would come to get the free meals than what’s available.

The solution?

Put out more free burgers. And so on and so forth.

Alternatives, such as the taco joint down the street, would be decimated.

This is exactly what happens to public transit and walkable communities every time we build more highways and car-centred sprawl.

See the original post here.

There’s also this explainer, but it doesn’t include hamburgers… you’ve been forewarned.

Idling cars produce more GHG emissions than moving cars

Studies show that this is a myth. Emissions are actually strongly correlated with the distance and rate or speed of travel, and weakly correlated with the level of congestion.1Congestion and emissions mitigation: A comparison of capacity, demand, and vehicle based strategies

Vehicles travelling at higher speeds emit more GHGs than those moving at lower speeds. Building more highways and inducing more people to travel at higher speeds leads to higher emissions. This is compounded by induced demand, which sees more vehicular traffic occur.

There are further reasons why this argument is no longer valid.

Vehicles sold today are increasingly equipped with kill switches that turn off the engine when the car is stationary. Accordingly, vehicles stopped in traffic are producing very little, if any, GHG emissions. Further, and this is linked to a lengthy explanation below, government policy is increasingly geared towards promotion of a modal shift from vehicles with internal combustion engines to those with electric drives. In both cases emissions from idling, even without the research noted above, is made moot.

Argument 3: We need highways to prepare for growth

It is true that we need to plan and prepare to meet increased growth. The question that needs to be answered, however, is how can we do this in a way that is efficient? In other words, how do we make the best use of the resources available to us? (More people means more pressure on resources. If we plan prudently we can ensure that that pressure is lessened, so that our communities can continue to rely on clean water, vibrant green spaces, and fertile farmland.)

Here again highways fail to make the grade.

Highways, most often used to transport a single person per car, are possibly the least efficient option for transportation.

This lack of efficiency – the cost that cars have – has real impacts on our society, including on municipal budgets.

There is currently a multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit in Ontario, much of it related to roads. This is a cost borne by the taxpayer.2Canadian Infrastructure Report Card

(Roads and highways, if you think about it, are basically subsidies to developers, since they cost more for the public to maintain than they return to the economy when compared with alternatives such as complete communities linked by rail. See the graphic below for more on this.)

Click for a larger version. Learn more about these costs at thediscourse.ca/scarborough/full-cost-commute.

If we are serious about preparing to accommodate the projected growth in population that our region will see in the coming decades, we need to be looking at options that are efficient, that give the best return to the taxpayer, that protect the crucial resources our communities rely on, such as wetlands that filter water, forests that provide habitat for wildlife and filter air of pollutants, and farmland that provides us with healthy, local food.

This last point, the value of supporting a local food ecosystem, is particularly important given the price shocks we have been exposed to with a stretched out global supply chain. It’s also particularly salient given the area this highway will impact, the Holland Marsh or the “Salad belt”, which has some of Ontario’s most valuable, productive farmland. 

The increasing cost of food is something we’ve all experienced over the course of the pandemic, and it’s a factor that will only increase in volatility as climate change increasingly impacts agricultural areas in closer to the equator. The US breadbasket, for example, and the aquifer it relies upon, the Ogallala Aquifer, the country’s largest, is facing serious risks due to increased temperatures from climate change.

Congestion is a drag

This argument is pretty straight forward – the more time people and goods spend stuck in traffic, the more money and potential productivity our economy loses.

Even if you’ve entirely bought into the notion that the best economy is the most productive economy (there is a growing chorus from economists and activists taking issue with this notion, pointing out that the goal of our economy should be to promote the health and well-being of citizens, rather than the simplistic, never-ending pursuit of GDP growth, and the corollary impacts it has on the health of the environment, as well on our social and mental health) the straight forward solution to this would be to plan for strongly connected, complete communities.

These are communities in which efficient transportation is prioritized, enabling people to get to and from work easily and without relying on cars. (Cars and their operation, after all, suck up a lot of financial resources that could otherwise be circulating within the local economy.)

Argument 4: We will all be driving electric vehicles soon, so we don't need to worry about emissions

There are other ways in which our car-centric planning, which highways perpetuate, is creating problems. Many jurisdictions will be hard-pressed to meet GHG emissions targets due to the over-reliance on cars that our communities have – a long history of building for cars rather than for people.

A key method for achieving a large portion of reductions, though even with this their targets, for the most part, are still badly missed, is encouraging a modal shift in transportation from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. 

A reliance on EVs for emission reductions raises several red flags, however. EVs are an important tool in transitioning to an economy that is in line with what’s needed to ensure a safe planet for our children and grandchildren, but they are just that, a tool to transition.

The more that we rely on EVs the greater the risk we build into our strategies for reducing GHG emissions, and, importantly, our environmental and social impact.

Again, this is one of those issues that on the surface appears to be a no-brainer, but it’s exactly for this reason that it’s problematic.

Phantom reductions

EVs, on their own, represent a stark contrast with the heavy impact we now know is associated with cars using internal combustion engines. Run an EV in a garage with the door closed and you don’t have any problems.

Where things start to get tricky, however, is when you consider the complete cost of the EV, including the source of the power an EV is using and the materials required for its components.

The electricity used to power an EV may not be from a renewable source. Ontario currently generates part of its power with natural gas. Natural gas is a source of methane, which, gram for gram, is one of the most potent GHGs. 

Most of the natural gas that we use in Ontario, and this goes for home heating and cooking as well, comes from Alberta and BC, where fracking is used to extract it from the ground. Methane is released in the process of fracking as well, along with a number of other highly damaging environmental impacts. There is also an increasingly large liability of abandoned wells, which the public is likely on the hook for.

Picture of an oil drill with a red sunset behind it. Credit Zbynek Burival.

“Most of the natural gas that we use in Ontario, and this goes for home heating and cooking as well, comes from Alberta and BC, where fracking is used to extract it from the ground.”

The important point here, however, isn’t necessarily the type of power that is being used, but rather the ability of governments to effectively control the type of power. Relying on EVs for emissions reductions may be an effective political win locally, but without an ability to determine where the power is coming from, governments are taking a risk that emissions will simply be displaced from one jurisdiction to another.

The control, or lack thereof, that local governments have over the power generation mix pales in comparison to their control over where the materials used in EVs come from.

This is where risk starts to increase exponentially. Emissions reductions can be claimed locally, but what in fact has happened is they have been displaced elsewhere. This opens the door to a race-to-the-bottom scenario where some jurisdictions are forced to compete for emissions, becoming a dumping ground for the reductions gained in wealthier areas. This dynamic is already occurring, with certain parts of the world, largely in the global south, competing to attract economic investment by slashing environmental regulations. (And here in Ontario, the provincial government’s COVID economic recovery strategy has been largely based on skirting environmental regulation in order to push forward with developments.)

Perpetuating colonialism

The components used in batteries come, in large part, from countries in the global south.

Lithium is largely found in arid regions of Bolivia and Chile. Mining lithium requires huge amounts of water, as well as sulphuric acid, and the use of these resources is wreaking havoc on local environments.

A copper mine in Chile.

Cobalt is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where child labour is often implicated and a near complete lack of environmental regulation and protections exists.

While we don’t use power generated in these areas, we are nevertheless displacing a huge environmental burden onto them with our efforts to reduce our emissions through our reliance on EVs.

This is not only an environmental issue, it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a social justice issue.

Those of us who are able to afford an EV are far more responsible for climate change than those who live in these areas of the world.

Placing the burden of our emissions reductions on those who are not responsible for climate change represents a profound injustice. This is a continuance of colonialism, whereby the externalities of our economic and social activity are dumped, effectively, onto regions and people who don’t have the means to defend themselves, people and communities who are already at a disadvantage due to centuries of the very same colonialism, the extraction of value, that has so greatly benefited the global north. Such a dynamic is a taking over of their environment, of their communities and their farmland and their rivers and streams and aquifers, for our purposes. To the extent that we rely on solutions with a long tail, whereby the impacts are felt in ways that we do not have to directly grapple with, we assume an increased risk of wrong and error associated with that activity. 

Additional costs

Recycling of the materials associated with EVs represents another challenge that municipalities will have to face.

While current lithium-ion batteries are difficult to fully recycling, new solid state batteries anticipated to come online soon should be easier. This is a double-edged sword, however, meaning that while the impact to the global south may be somewhat reduced (see induced demand for why this won’t solve the problems here), it will make it more likely that this is a service that local governments are expected to support.

There are also factors that many governments don’t seem to be including yet in their future estimation of infrastructure costs, namely the added weight associated with EVs and the impact that will have on roads.3Vehicle Weight vs Road Damage Levels 

This means that as more EVs use our roads, we will need to increase road weight tolerances, which means we’ll be increasing the amount of aggregate that we need to mine or recycle. All of this increases the amount of money that we need to spend on car infrastructure.

Conclusion

We really need to be planning now for the communities that we want in twenty, thirty, fifty years from now. We need to do this in a way that preserves and enhances the natural resources that we have, so that our economy can continue to flourish for our children and grandchildren, and not be depleted in the short-term here and now.

Build within the urban boundary for density so that people can access groceries and workplaces and schools and parks by walking and cycling. This has benefits for our health and wellbeing as well as for our pocketbooks freeing up money in the household budget, otherwise spent on cars, that can instead be spent on quality time with family and friends.

Freeing us up from the expense of owning and operating a car – the second-biggest expense in Canadian households – also makes it possible to transition to a four-day work week, further supporting the health and wellbeing of citizens and helping to reduce the impact that our economy has on the environment.

Build high-speed rail between urban hubs so that we don’t need highways, and situate neighbourhood car-sharing nodes, so residents can access efficient and affordable personal transportation options if required.

All of this, compared to the costs associated with building highways and pouring money into mitigation the costs that will follow them, is in fact easy. All it requires is vision and leadership.

Young girl with a bubble. Credit Leo Rivas.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Links and resources are available here: linktr.ee/stopthebradfordbypass
  2. Visit our Bradford Bypass issues page to learn more about the project.
  3. Donate to help us fight this highway! See how some of our efforts have paid off in a Toronto Star/National Observer investigation into the highway.
Photo of a highway bridge. Credit Ajai Arif.
Planning

The Bradford Bypass – Clearing the Air

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.

Read More
Arial photo of the Holland Marsh, with Lake Simcoe in the distance. Credit Jeff Laidlaw.
Climate Change

Bradford Bypass

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.

Read More

Upper York Sewage Solution

York Region is pushing for a massive wastewater treatment facility. This facility will serve a massive increase in sprawl in the area, and will dump effluent into important water bodies.

2009 – York Region begins work on UPSS; Environmental Assessment (EA) process is started.

2010 – Terms of Reference approved. 

2014 – EA completed.

2016 – Ministry review completed.

Proponents submit Stakeholder and First Nations review.

Provincial Duty to Consult determined to have not been met.

2010 – Part of the UPSS project – the York Durham Sewage System forcemain twinning and pumping station modification work – is separated out and exempted from the EA process. Construction on this part proceeds.

Present – Waiting for a decision by the Province.

What's happening?

York Region is planning to increase its capacity for wastewater treatment. The rationale is that this is required to meeting a projected increase of roughly 150,000 in population by 2031.

A key aspect of this project that is important to recognize that it is more than the sum of its parts. The EA for the project, on its own, does not capture the impacts the wastewater treatment facility will have on the region.

While the impacts of the wastewater treatment facility on its own are of concern, the knock-on impacts of increasing capacity for development in the area, which is what this project accomplishes, cannot be separated out from the wastewater treatment facility itself. One leads to the other.

Quick Facts

Inadequate First Nations Consultation

Effluent Contains Pharmaceuticals

Impacts to Aquatic Ecosystem

Why is it a concern?

Lack of Consultation with Georgina Island First Nation

The duty to consult with First Nations that has not been fulfilled.

Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation Chief, Donna Big Canoe, has outlined concerns that the project would infringe on hunting and fishing rights, and stated that the province and region have not done enough to explore alternative solutions.

Sprawl

One of the biggest problems with this project is the financial justification is not on solid ground. This is a major reason why, as the thread embedded below outlines, the Region has had a on and off approach to implementing it.

As the thread notes, York has put a lot of money into servicing areas closer to the GTA, but the development in the area didn’t materialize to the extent that justified this cost, putting York deep in the red financially.

The UYSS, however, is intended to service an area to the north, bordering on the southern shores of Lake Simcoe.

There is the potential for increased development that this project opens up, as mentioned above. Without a strong commitment to build complete communities, and to focus on the sustainability of the region those communities are situated within, this project simply doubles down on business as usual for developers in the GTA, which is to build cheap sprawl on farmland.

Protect Lake Simcoe

Learn more about the threats facing Lake Simcoe and take action to protect it.

Currently, approximately 3 out of 5 residents in York Region commute more than 30 minutes each way to work every day, and just under 1 out of 5 drive more than an hour.

While York is starting to work towards increased intensification, it is important that its ability to direct growth beyond these areas remains constrained. The Region, for example, states that towards the end of the anticipated planning period to 2041 employment growth will shift towards what are currently less populated, and less integrated in the regional urban fabric, ares of Georgina and East Gwillimbury. It also states that additional urban lands will be required to accommodate forecasted growth.1York Region: Preferred Growth Scenarios – 2041

The capacity of the UYSS is 1/3 unfilled through 2031, allowing for continued growth through the projected lifespan of the facility.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Learn more about the threats facing Lake Simcoe and take action.
  2. Share your concerns on social media.
  3. Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed on developments with growing the Greenbelt and limiting sprawl.

Links to Further Reading

Related Content

Photo of a highway bridge. Credit Ajai Arif.
Planning

The Bradford Bypass – Clearing the Air

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.

Read More »
Bird's eye view of a wastewater treatment facility. Credit Van Bandura.
Featured

Upper York Sewage Solution

York Region is planning to increase its capacity for wastewater treatment. The rationale is that this is required to meeting a projected increase of roughly 150,000 in population by 2031.

A key aspect of this project that is important to recognize that it is more than the sum of its parts. The EA for the project, on its own, does not capture the impacts the wastewater treatment facility will have on the region.

Read More »

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

The controversial highway planned through wetlands and the Greenbelt.

The Bradford By-Pass

1997 – Route Planning and Environmental Assessment Study

2002 – Environmental Assessment 

2008 – Simcoe County includes link in its Master Transportation Plan.

2008 – Highway is not included in the Growth Plan.

2020 – Province announces the Bradford Bypass will proceed.

2021 – EcoJustice requests the federal government conduct an analysis of the project under the Impact Assessment Act.

2021 – York Region Council votes to send letter to the federal government stating its support of construction of the highway.

2021 (March) – Bradford ByPass is mentioned in the provincial budget in section outlining money to be spent on highway construction and maintenance.

2021 (October) – Bypass is exempted from the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act.  The government says this will help “ensure appropriate environmental protection.”

2021 (October) – The Toronto Star and the National Observer publish an investigation on ties between developers and the provincial government and how developers stand to gain from building the Bypass. The piece also notes that, through information obtained by SCGC via a FOI request, the government was intending on making the highway a toll route.

2022 (January) – Petition of more than 10,000 signatures released opposing construction of the Bypass. 

2022 (February) – The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada decides not to designate the project.

2022 (March) – Lawsuit brought against the federal government by seven ENGOs challenging its refusal to designate the Bypass for a federal impact assessment.

2022 (April) – Contract awarded by provincial government for the Yonge Street bridge. This is part of the ‘early works’, which are to be started prior to all the studies being completed.

What's Happening?

The provincial government is moving forward with building a highway connecting highways 404 and 400. The route passes along the northern edge of Bradford, and through portions of the Holland Marsh.

The highway is controversial due to the route running through portions of the Greenbelt and the Holland Marsh, which is a significant wetland and agricultural area, as well as the fact that it is based, largely, on an environmental assessment that was done more than 20 years ago. (More recently the provincial government decided to exempt most of the project from environmental assessment requirements.) 

Opponents also argue that highways should not be prioritized in a climate crisis.

Finally, the government argues the highway is needed to ease congestion. Highways DO NOT accomplish this, though. This is well known, as outlined by the video we share below, yet they continue to push the project. If congestion is indeed the primary concern, it is clear that the government is mismanaging public money, throwing good after bad, with the project.

Quick Facts

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:

Early Works

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

Greenbelt

 GO Train Line and Stops

Road/Highway Construction

 500 m High Risk Air Pollution

Evaluated Wetlands

Unevaluated Wetlands

Negative Impacts

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.

This is a rendering of what a four-lane highway bridge could look like crossing over the East Holland River looking to the north and Lake Simcoe. 

The bridge crossing of the East Holland River is likely to disturb one of the most significant archeological sites in southern Ontario, where artifacts have been found dating back nearly two-thousand years.

Image: Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition

There are also costs that communities built around cars have that aren’t evident or easy to see.

Negative health impacts, such as obesity, can be correlated with communities built for cars as people drive to get basic amenities, such as groceries, rather than walk or bike. There are more direct consequences, though perhaps less acknowledged, as well, such as the fact that cars are a leading cause of death in the United States for children.

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.

Infographic on the high cost of sprawl. Credit: Smart Prosperity Institute.
Infographic on the high cost of sprawl. Credit: Smart Prosperity Institute. (Click image for larger version.)

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Follow and support those fighting this project on social media. See #stopthebradfordbypass’s linktr.ee for links.
  2. Learn more by watching our webinar, done on March 16th, adding the issue. (Find it above as well.)
  3. Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed on how you can help grow the Greenbelt and stop wasteful sprawl.
  4. Oh, and you can listen to our podcast episode with Laura Bowman of EcoJustice where we talk about exactly this issue! 👇👇

Additional Resources

Related Content

Events

Gather For The Greenbelt

Corporate sponsorship opportunities for the “Gather for the Greenbelt” event in Barrie, Ontario, featuring in-person storytelling from Margaret Atwood, special guests Sarah Harmer, Jeff Monague, and poetry from Barrie’s Poet Laureate, Tyneisha Thomas.

Art installation by Rochelle Rubinstein will be featured, as well.

Read More

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

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