More municipalities voice opposition to GTA West Corridor

·6 min read

More and more municipalities are joining environmental groups in opposing the proposed GTA West Corridor.

King Township is being pressured to join the growing opposition. A motion will be presented at an upcoming council meeting that rescinds their support for the route.

The environmental assessment continues into the GTA West Corridor, a transportation route that is designed to improve the flow of goods through the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Environmental groups and concerned citizens have long seen the route as not only unnecessary, but one that eats up prime natural land along its preferred route.

The Stop the 413 Facebook has been active online recently. The group includes residents of King, Caledon, Vaughan, Kleinburg, King, Caledon, Brampton, Halton & Surrounding Areas against the construction of Highway 413.

Environmental Defence is asking the federal government to conduct a “proper” EA of the 413.

The group contends the corridor is “a redundant and unnecessary toll highway that would pave over farm, forests, wetlands and a portion of the Greenbelt and cost taxpayers billions.”

The group argues that Highway 407 (another toll highway) is underused. Yet the province is proposing to build another east-west toll highway just 15 kilometres away.

“Building a new highway gets more polluting cars on the road, and usually does nothing to relieve congestion over time. In fact, an expert panel study found the highway would only save drivers 30-60 seconds per trip,” they say.

“Building Highway 413 would cost Ontario taxpayers billions. And it would mean less money is available to invest in crucial public transit. Highway 413 would degrade the parts of the Credit River and Humber River watersheds that flow into Lake Ontario – a source of drinking water for millions of GTA residents.”

The loss of more than 2,000 acres of class 2 farmland worries many.

King-Vaughan MPP Stephen Lecce said he fully supports the protection of the natural environment. He also “appreciates that gridlock is a long-standing challenge that will only be exacerbated by one million more residents moving into the GTHA over the coming decade.

“While forward planning is necessary, quite obviously there’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to further consult with communities impacted and a rigorous environmental assessment. Once that is comprehensively done, if it makes sense for the highway to proceed, it may; if it doesn’t, it won’t.”

King Township last year lent its support to the corridor swinging south of King-Vaughan municipal boundary.

“First and foremost, any suggestions to move the proposed route further north into King Township would not be supported by council as it would have many negative impacts, including to the environment.”

Back in January of this year, King Township council passed a resolution fully supporting the MTO’s preferred technical Route S8-3 based on its natural, land use/socio-economic and transportation technical merits.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is undertaking Stage 2 of the Environmental Assessment (EA) Study for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor. Building on the recommendations from Stage 1, the EA Study will identify the route, determine interchange locations and complete the preliminary design for a new multimodal transportation corridor within the Route Planning Study Area. The new multimodal transportation corridor will include: a 400-series highway, transitway and potential goods movement priority features. The study continues to follow the GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference, which was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment on March 4, 2008.

The government contends the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor is vital transportation infrastructure that will help meet the projected growth in both population and employment identified in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and will deliver multiple benefits.

Proponents note that even with optimizing the existing transportation network, widening existing highways, and the transit expansion projects identified by Metrolinx, additional road capacity is needed.

In 2019, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing released A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the Growth Plan). The Growth Plan outlines a set of policies for managing growth and development and guiding planning decisions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The GTA West Transportation Corridor is identified in the Growth Plan as a “Future Transportation Corridor” and represents a strategic link between Urban Growth Centres in the west of the Greater Toronto Area. This study was initiated to further develop this transportation corridor.

The government contends the new highway will relieve traffic on local roads, reduce travel times and provide greater connectivity between urban growth centres, with both transit and highway facilities.

The GTA West Study was resumed in June 2019. The study will protect lands for a future multimodal transportation corridor (with the exception of utilities). With the GTA West Study resuming, the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study will be discontinued.

The Project Team reviewed feedback from PIC #2 and worked diligently with advisory groups, municipal staff, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to confirm the Preferred Route and associated 2020 Focused Analysis Area for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor.

In August 2020, the Preferred Route and 2020 Focused Analysis Area for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor were confirmed.

The Preferred Route has been confirmed following the consideration of feedback from Public Information Centre #2, as well as land use and environmental information. While preliminary design of the corridor will still be required to identify specific property impacts, stakeholders should now have a good indication of where the new transportation corridor will be located at this time. At the third round of Public Information Centres, the Project Team will present the preliminary design of the Preferred Route, which will refine the associated property requirements.

The study is currently in the planning and preliminary design phase, which represents an early stage of the overall process, and is expected to be completed in 2022. The planning and preliminary design phase will culminate in an Environmental Assessment (EA) Report, which will be made available for public review. It is anticipated that the Final EA Report will be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks by the end of 2022.

Following the review of the EA Report, and if EA approval is obtained, the corridor will be protected. There will be a future requirement for additional engineering tasks such as surveying, testing for soil conditions, determining construction material requirements, and developing the design details for the new highway, interchanges, bridges, etc. Currently there is no commitment to a timeline for additional design and construction. The timing and duration of highway construction depends on numerous factors, including size and complexity of the project, funding availability, procurement method and timing of environmental clearances and permits.

Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel