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Ontario Construction News staff writer
Advocates opposed to the province’s Master Transportation Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe say the government should be more focused on the health of Lake Simcoe and less focused on building highways.
“According to mapping within the discussion document, our regional future includes more highways and pavement around Lake Simcoe,” says Claire Malcolmson, executive director at the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition (RLSC).
“The Bradford Bypass will bisect the Lake Simcoe’s largest and most important wetland – the Holland Marsh – and drastically increase GHG emissions in the area, and yet, the government is doubling down on highways in this sensitive watershed.”
The new highway is planned to connect Highway 404 to Highways 12/48 and will wrap about the southeastern edge of the lake.
According to the RLSC, the Bradford Bypass is just a small piece in a larger picture of highway widenings and new highways in the Lake Simcoe watershed which is already struggling to stay healthy.
“Building these highways would worsen Lake Simcoe’s health, no ifs, ands or buts,” said Malcolmson.
“These highway plans do the opposite of what is needed to improve the lake’s health by guaranteeing an increase in salt loads to the lake, and by removing wetlands and forests. Lake Simcoe is in an emergency situation.”
Instead, the government should focus on reducing phosphorus and salt sources dramatically, increasing natural cover and keeping every inch of greenspace and wetland, as established in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.
“So once again the province is ignoring the law, and the science. All I can conclude is that the province puts development above all other considerations and has no regard for the health of the lake and the communities surrounding it,” Malcolmson said.
Throughout the planning process, public consultations have identified transportation priorities: making transit as convenient as driving, making getting around healthier for people and the planet and to make better use of roads and railways we already have.
However, plans for the Lake Simcoe area do the opposite by proposing 55 kilometres of new highways to facilitate building bedroom communities in rural areas with few jobs.
“I guess those public priorities will only be given credence if you live in vote-rich GTA,” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “Between the Bypass and this new highway, we’re essentially building another Highway 413 right around the shores of Lake Simcoe.
“Who benefits from that? asked Prophet. “Not Lake Simcoe or the economies or communities that depend on its health. With all of our communities needing help and businesses struggling, spending over $1 billion to build more highways around Lake Simcoe is the best they can do?”
Jennifer Lloyd of STOP Bradford Bypass agrees.
“They’re increasing salt sources with two new highways, bisecting and polluting the Lake Simcoe’s headwaters and largest wetland with the Bradford Bypass and then telling us that this is inevitable due to growth that they’re encouraging in the area,” said Lloyd.
“These things are choices that are being made for us, not inevitabilities! Climate change is inevitable. How and where we grow are policy choices. The public wants different transportation investments, but instead we get more of the same.”
The province is seeking feedback on the master transportation plan until Aug. 28. There is a survey that you can fill out here: https://www.ontario.ca/form/consultation-greater-golden-horseshoe-transportation-plan-discussion-paper.