Municipalities north of Bradford aren’t on board with the proposed Bradford Bypass project, rejecting a local request for support.
The City of Barrie council debated the project and decided to ask for alternatives to the proposed Bradford bypass that will link Highways 400 and 404.
“What we’re doing here is shaping what will go to a letter,” Councillor Jim Harris said at a city council meeting last week. “We’re not making the decision here.”
Barrie approved a motion requesting a comprehensive impact assessment on Lake Simcoe, in accordance with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, and those watersheds and inflows into Lake Simcoe. They voiced concerned about possible impact on wetlands and forests and farms.
The resolution will now be sent to MP Caroline Mulroney, minister of transportation, and Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks.
In the same week, Innisfil council hit an impasse over support.
A request was received from neighbouring Bradford West Gwillimbury seeking support for the bypass, described as a “vital link in the local transportation network” and a solution to traffic congestion.
The Bradford Bypass is a proposed 16.2-kilometre freeway connecting Highway 400 and Highway 404 in the Regional Municipality of York and County of Simcoe. The Environmental Assessment for the project is currently being updated, with approval expected by the end of December 2022. A route planning study, Environmental Assessment and Recommended plan for the project were all previously approved in 2002.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has retained AECOM Canada Ltd. (AECOM) to undertake a Preliminary Design and Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Study for the proposed Highway 400 – Highway 404 Link (Bradford Bypass). MTO previously completed a route planning study for the Bradford Bypass in 1997 and a subsequent EA and Recommended Plan were approved in 2002.
However, Innisfil heard from environmental groups opposed because the bypass would cross the Holland River and cut through Holland River wetlands a few kilometres from Lake Simcoe.
The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition question the studies and reliability of government promises and asked for a federal environmental assessment. That request, however, was rejected.
“We feel if Innisfil wants to comment on this highway, then it should be an advocate for farmland preservation, protecting water and the environment, and clearly stand against the Bypass,” representative Margaret Prophet wrote.
Along with the impact assessment on Lake Simcoe and watersheds, Barrie also wants to know what alternative routes are possible.
Despite environmental concerns, some councillors are opposed to stepping into the debate on a project that has been approved by local and provincial politicians.
“This has been approved by all the municipalities it’s going to affect,” said Councillor Gary Harvey, “so I just really struggle why a city like ours, 40 minutes north, thinks that we should be getting involved in this.
Prophet says 60 per cent of the proposed highway would be in the greenbelt and 13 watercourses would have to be crossed.
“(It’s) a relic from 1980s transportation planning, revived from the dead in 2017,” she said of the Bradford bypass. “Our coalition follows the evidence and to us the evidence we have demonstrates this is a project that at the very least requires sober second thought.”
The group favours increased GO service and boosting regional transit alternatives.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner is also opposed to the building of the highway.
In a press release, he called the highway “a bad idea”.
“I recognize why people would be supportive of the highway because gridlock is a big issue and we’ve underinvested in good regional transit for so long, that our transit services just aren’t up to the kind of quality we need,” Schreiner said.
“We really need to be investing in solutions around building communities where people can live and work and not have to commute, and for those that do need to commute, making sure they have accessible, affordable high-speed transit.”