Lake Simcoe environmental groups concerned after province grants Bradfrod Bypass exemption
Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Simcoe County Green Coalition request federal assessment
Oct. 13, 2021
Environmental groups in the Lake Simcoe area are upset about the Ontario government's decision, released Oct. 8, that exempts the Bradford Bypass highway project from the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).
Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Simcoe County Green Coalition represented by Ecojustice, requested a federal assessment of the Bradford Bypass on Feb. 3, 2021. Petitions opposing the project received 18,000 signatures.
In May 2021, the federal government announced it was stepping in to conduct an EA for the proposed Highway 413 in the northwestern GTA, but didn’t choose to do the same for the Bradford Bypass.
“The government has opted to exempt the Bradford Bypass from any meaningful public consultation about the project and its potentially severe impacts on Lake Simcoe, the Holland Marsh, and public health,” Ecojustice lawyer Laura Bowman said on behalf of the environmental groups. “This continues a disturbing trend of the provincial government jeopardizing the environment by cutting Ontarians out of decision-making."
Bowman said the exemption of the Bradford Bypass from the Environmental Assessment Act will have significant impacts including:
Exemption from the protections afforded by the EAA and the elimination of the requirement for extensive, detailed and up-to-date studies on environmental impacts.
The elimination of virtually all public consultation, conditions from the 1997 EA that protect archeological sites and the requirement to look at key road alternatives that are more sustainable and less costly.
Ministry of Transportation Manager of Engineering Jason White told York Region council earlier this year the province is undertaking an update study to advance the 16.2-kilometre project, which would connect Hwy. 400 to Hwy. 404. He said that study will include field investigations, impact assessment, mitigation, as well as environmental commitments, including those identified in the 2002 Route Planning EA Approval. White noted there would be public consultations as part of the process.
Local municipalities in York Region and Simcoe County have both pledged their support for the highway as well as the province. Premier Doug Ford even appears to indirectly reference the Bradford Bypass in his latest campaign ad released earlier this month. “Yes, to building highways you can drive on, so you don’t sit in gridlock,” Ford says in the ad.The MTO began a Preliminary Design EA Update Study to advance the Bradford Bypass project in September 2020. Interchanges are located at Highway 400, County Road 4, Bathurst Street, Leslie Street and Highway 404. Crossings are at 10th Sideroad, Artesian Industrial Parkway, Metrolinx rail corridor, Yonge Street and 2nd Concession Road. The current plan is to cross Yonge Street and 2nd Concession with overpasses and cross Leslie Street with a partial interchange.