A provincial advisory group and environmental advocates are urging the Ford government to reconsider plans to expedite a new Greater Toronto Area highway that could cut through the Greenbelt.
The idea for a highway through the region’s West Corridor was floated, then killed, by the previous Liberal government and revived under the Progressive Conservatives. The government announced its preferred route for the highway on Aug. 7, and has proposed to fast-track the project’s environmental assessment.
The Greenbelt Council, a government-appointed expert panel, said it would be “ill-advised” for the government to speed up the project, chair David Crombie wrote in an Aug. 18 letter to Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, pointing to “significant stakeholder concerns.”
“The Greenbelt Council continues to have strong reservations about new transportation corridors in the Greater Golden Horseshoe in terms of both lack of need and the fact that such large-scale infrastructure compromises the protection of prime agricultural lands and the long-term integrity of natural heritage areas in the Greenbelt,” Crombie wrote. (Crombie, a respected former Toronto mayor, also served as a Progressive Conservative MP.)
And in a new report released Thursday, green non-profit Environmental Defence said the project would seriously damage the environment and pave the way for increased carbon emissions. It would also cut through at least 53 waterways in the protected Greenbelt, which Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly pledged not to develop.
“This highway was cancelled previously for good reasons,” said Environmental Defence programs director Keith Brooks.
“At a time like this, in a climate crisis… we’re going to build a new highway?”
The Ontario government has said it expects the corridor, Highway 413, will be used for 300,000 vehicle trips per day by 2031. It would run through the Halton, Peel and York regions, connecting several major 400-series routes.
“The GTA West Corridor will help alleviate traffic congestion and improve the movement of people and goods across the province,” Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said in an Aug. 7 statement.
Brooks pointed to research showing that building new roads doesn’t reduce congestion — it tends to attract more drivers, a concept called “induced demand” that was identified by two University of Toronto researchers in 2009. It’s not yet clear exactly how much that demand could affect Ontario’s climate goals, he added.
“The impacts are significant,” he said.
the article is originally published at national observer.