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Twenty years ago, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Bradford bypass project. The EA concluded that this endeavour would result in irreparable damage to the Lake Simcoe watershed by destroying:
- 22.1 hectares of high-quality woodlands;
- 17.2 hectares of Holland Marsh (designated environmentally sensitive area);
- 9.5 hectares of designated provincially sensitive wetlands; and
- 32.7 hectares of significant wildlife habitat.
Despite the fact that the EA identified numerous areas of concern for both human and environmental health, and that research has found that highways actually increase vehicular congestion, the MTO is looking to fast-track this project without conducting the updated studies it committed to doing over two decades ago.
Since the original EA was done there are new concerns to consider, including waterfowl staging habitat, climate change, shorter snow and ice seasons on Lake Simcoe, and excess salt entering streams and Lake Simcoe.
By failing to consider alternatives, this project adds stress to an already-stressed Lake Simcoe and erodes local residents’ quality of life. Furthermore, it will undermine progress made under the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, including the destruction of sensitive fish and aquatic habitat.
Climate change is among the many concerns that were identified in the initial EA that were not addressed. Without an updated EA, the magnitude of climate change impacts will be unknown and mitigation strategies will be overlooked.
Alternatives to the project which would better serve the long-term interests of residents of Bradford and local communities, have not been considered. Of particular importance is consideration of upgrades to regional roads rather than building a new highway.
Given the urgent need for safe and sustainable transportation in the midst of a global pandemic, the provincial government’s rush to accelerate the Bradford Bypass is both short-sighted and negligent.