Category Archives for "Highways and Bridges"

Aug 20

New Report – Is Building Highway 413 the Best Option for Moving People and Goods?

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News , Major Reports

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, SUSTAINABLE VAUGHAN, TRANSPORT ACTION ONTARIO

For immediate release: Thursday August 20, 2020

A new report – Is Building Highway 413 the Best Option for Moving People & Goods in the GTA-West Region? – shows the proposed GTA-West Highway is a poor use of funds and suggests alternatives to meet the region’s transportation needs

Toronto, Ont. – A  report released today by Environmental Defence, Sustainable Vaughan and Transport Action Ontario, challenges the wisdom of the proposed GTA-West Highway, which would run from the Highway 401/Highway 407 interchange near Milton, to Highway 400 near Kleinburg. This highway proposal, also known as Highway 413, was cancelled in 2018, but then resurrected by the current government. The report argues that the highway will harm the environment and damage communities, while offering little benefit for commuters, making it a poor use of $6 billion tax dollars. 

“We don’t need another highway. Highway 413 was cancelled because the public didn’t want it, and because experts determined that the social, environmental and economic costs of the highway outweighed the meagre benefits that this project could deliver,” said Keith Brooks, Programs Director with Environmental Defence. “Highway 413 is still a bad project, and a waste of tax dollars that would be better spent on public transit. Moreover, with more people expected to work from home in the future, a mega-highway is the wrong fit for the region’s transportation needs.”  

The adverse environmental impacts of a new transportation corridor of this size are significant, and include impacts to rivers, wetlands and forests, the loss of thousands of hectares of prime agricultural lands including about 1000 hectares in the Greenbelt, damage to waterways from road salt, air pollution affecting nearby residents and increased greenhouse gas emissions. 

In addition, there is no evidence to support the idea that highway expansions solve traffic congestion due to what’s known as induced demand. Research has shown that construction of new highway capacity is met soon thereafter with an exactly proportional increase in traffic, due to changes in driving behaviour. Little is accomplished for traffic relief. 

“Highway 413 is a bad investment for the citizens of Ontario. It would damage the environment, consume land for low-value uses, promote urban sprawl, not solve traffic congestion and move Ontario away from its climate change goals,” said Peter Miasek, President of Transport Action Ontario. “The transportation alternatives suggested in this report, together with innovative land use ideas like Brampton’s urban boulevard concept, are a much better investment of money.”

The report shows that investments in GO Rail, light rail, and bus rapid transit projects in the western GTA could move four times as many people as the highway could, for a comparable cost. The report also discusses the alternatives proposed by the expert panel struck by the previous government, which argued that extending and expanding existing highways, congestion pricing, and giving trucks priority on Highway 407ETR would accomplish the goals of Highway 413 at a much reduced cost. 

The province of Ontario has announced a plan to fast track the environmental assessment for the highway, and recently announced the preferred route. The consultation period for the expedited environmental assessment closes on August 22nd. Meanwhile, the City of Brampton recently voted in favour of a walkable, bike-friendly, higher density, boulevard concept in place of Highway 413, reinforcing that the highway is a bad fit for the region. 

“The government has an outdated view of how to boost Ontario’s economy – a new highway, more sprawl, and more pollution isn’t the answer,” adds Keith Brooks. “Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in Ontario. In addition, recent modeling estimated that pollution from traffic causes almost 900 premature deaths per year in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). We don’t need another highway, more cars, and more pollution.”

The report may be viewed below:

Jul 28

Brampton studying Urban Boulevard to replace Highway 413

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News , Southwestern Ontario

The GTA-West corridor (Highway 413) is a proposed new expressway between Vaughan and Milton. It is currently in the final stages of an Environmental Assessment. Transport Action has been involved with this project since 2009. See our last posting Nov. 12, 2019.

In July, 2020, Brampton Planning and Development Committee unanimously approved a recommendation by city staff to study an urban boulevard in lieu of an expressway in the Heritage Heights area of the City. Transport Action Ontario made a deputation supporting the staff recommendation. It can be viewed below:

Nov 12

Provincial Assessment of GTA West Highway Corridor Continues

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

In 2018, the new Ontario government announced it was reviving the Environmental Assessment (EA)  for the GTA West (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 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 has now been removed from the MTO website, but remains available through the Internet Archive:

https://web.archive.org/web/20190618160500/http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/publications/gta-west-report/index.shtml

The 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.
  • Four 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.

Nov 21

Ontario’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement – Mixed Signals on Transportation

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Urban Transit

On November 15, Ontario released its 2018 Fall Economic Statement (FES). It is a large document covering all aspects of the Province’s operations. It is likely the most significant statement on the government’s intentions until the provincial budget comes out in Spring, 2019.

To date, the government has implemented various tax and fee cuts, including cancelling cap and trade, putting in a hiring freeze, changing labour laws, and cancelling some projects and programs, including 4 new universities, 758 renewable energy contracts, and the Environmental Commissioner office. There is a lot of public worry about additional future cuts as the government struggles to balance its books.

The statements on transportation in the FES are a mixed bag as summarized below:

• In contrast to their election platform promise to reinstate the Northlander train, the FES emphasizes northern highway improvements, and only promises to “review other initiatives to meet Northerners’ transportation needs, including passenger rail and bus services”.

• Similarly, in contrast to their promise to deliver all transit and transportation projects currently funded, the FES simply indicates that “the government looks forward to completing its review of all capital projects and intends to share details in the coming months”.

• The campaign plan to upload responsibility for existing and new subway lines from Toronto is maintained in the FES. See previous posting on this topic on the TAO website for more details. We have now heard that the advisory report on this uploading will be coming to the government by the end of this month.

• The campaign promise to actively explore High Speed Rail in Southwestern Ontario has been replaced with a plan to analyze a range of “options to either upgrade existing rail corridors, create new ones or utilize other forms of transportation.” This appears to be a welcome step-back from the previous government’s single-minded pursuit of High Speed Rail only. TAO has long advocated for a review of rail alternatives such as High Performance Rail involving incremental improvements to train speed and frequency on all existing corridors. But of course, the “other forms of transportation” statement bears watching.

• As expected, the province is reviving the Environmental Assessment for the GTA-W highway corridor. TAO participated in the previous EA process, emphasizing that existing infrastructure (rail, provincial highways, regional roads) need expansion to full capacity prior to a new expressway being built.

• A new item in the FES is a planned review of the enabling legislation for Metrolinx to “enhance the agency’s focus on regional transit delivery and service excellence”. Whether this leads to some sort of broader scope for Metrolinx, such as one regional transit agency like “Superlinx”, remains to be seen.

• The province is continuing work on the Greater Golden Horseshoe transportation plan, to which TAO and other non-government organizations have previously inputted.

• The FES is silent on the campaign promise to add $5B in new subway funding to build various lines in the GTHA. It is also silent on other topics that TAO has urged action on, including living up to the previous government promises of higher gas tax revenue to municipalities and provincial contributions to transit fare integration in Greater Toronto, as well as assistance to municipalities to implement low-income fares/passes.

 

In summary, with this new government, there are many planned or potential major changes to Ontario’s transportation landscape. TAO intends to closely monitor all of these and provide input to ensure that sustainability gets its fair due.

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