Construction expected early next year on controversial Bradford Bypass project

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Ontario government is planning to sign a contract with a company to build the controversial Bradford Bypass just months before the provincial election.

The project has been discussed conceptually for decades. The closest the freeway came to being built was in the early 2000s, when a previous Progressive Conservative (PC) government ordered an environmental assessment for it, with the intention of moving it forward. Not long after, the Dalton McGuinty-led Liberals won the 2003 election and nixed those plans.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney shared details at news conference near the site of the proposed route on Monday, confirming the expression of interest for the early work of building the bypass will close this week.

She expects a company will be chosen for the work in March 2022 and her goal is to “get shovels in the ground as soon as possible.”

The dedication to building more highways is troubling opponents.

Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, finds the Bradford Bypass promise coming days after the COP24 climate conference “telling”.

“What we have is a government who’s focused on building a government for 1950, when global leaders are trying to build the economy for the future, which is moving away from what got us into trouble in the first place,” Prophet said in a statement.

“When we have Lake Simcoe that the conservation authority is saying within 50 years will become toxic because of its salt overload. The Bradford Bypass will put salt right into the headwaters,” explains Prophet.

Prophet says 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.

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.

Bradford-West Gwillimbury Mayor Keffer says he’s confident that the planning process to make the bypass “the most environmentally-friendly highway in North America.”

Keffer says a call for tenders on a planned bypass interchange at County Road 4 could be issued by March to piggyback on Simcoe County’s existing plan to widen the road north of Bradford.

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