In 2018, the new Ontario government announced it was reviving the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the GTAW (Highway 413) corridor, proposed to run north of Highway 407 from Vaughan to Milton. The EA had been stopped by the Liberal Government based on recommendations from an advisory panel in 2017. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) had participated in the previous EA, emphasizing that existing infrastructure (rail, provincial highways, regional roads) should be expanded to full capacity first.
The 2017 advisory panel report was extremely thoughtful and comprehensive. It concluded:
- Future travel demand is very much more uncertain than when the EA was initiated 10 years ago. This includes uncertainties in transportation technology (e.g. automated vehicles, shared mobility), economic changes (e-commerce, different manufacturing centres, bigger service economy) and policy changes (climate change mitigation, protection of valuable land, complete communities). A broad range of scenarios should be modeled.
specific promising alternatives were modelled and should be considered before
committing to a new highway:
- Consider and prioritize planned and constructed extension and expansion of existing highways
- Consider congestion pricing (offers much larger travel time saving than GTAW highway)
- Consider providing truck priority on Highway 407
- Consider slower growth and more compact land use patterns than assumed in EA, consistent with recent actual growth
- Framework used in the EA was flawed, resulting in a failure to demonstrate that a new corridor was the only reasonable alternative
- A preferred planning approach would be to develop a single unified transportation plan for the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe that would align with provincial policies and explicitly consider uncertainty
Despite this recommendation, the previous EA has been revived “as is” and is proceeding with detailed route evaluation. Public information sessions were held in October. There is mixed public reaction to the project, with concerns about induced vehicular demand and loss of valuable farm land being paramount. TAO will consult with other non-government environmental organizations as to next steps.