How did we get here?
A background on the years of Environmental Assessment work that has gone into this project.
Highway 413 is part of Ontario’s plan to expand highways and public transit across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) to fight congestion, create jobs and prepare for the massive population growth expected in the next 30 years.
But how did we arrive at the decision to proceed with the Stage 2 Environmental Assessment (EA) for Highway 413? And how do we know that other transportation options, such as transit, could not achieve the same results and help support the population growth that’s expected?
Those are questions with a long history – one that the Ministry of Transportation has spent years exploring. It started in 2008. The ministry knew that the western Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was going to be experiencing significant population growth, and that an exploration of transportation solutions was needed. This led to the ministry embarking on the GTA West Stage 1 EA.
Recognizing that previous EAs undertaken by the ministry had been too focused on road or highway options, this ministry specifically designed the GTA West Stage 1 EA to explore all transportation modes and solutions. A “building block approach” was taken to first evaluate optimizing existing infrastructure and transit. Of the following list, each action was examined to determine if it, alone, could address the transportation requirements identified. If not, the subsequent actions were explored on finding solutions for the projected transportation demand:
- Optimize existing networks (transit, rail, roads and highways, air, marine, etc.)
- New/expanded non-road infrastructure (transit, rail, air, marine)
- Widen/improve roads
- New transportation corridors
In addition to the “building block approach”, which prioritized actions 1 and 2, the EA used optimistic assumptions for transit infrastructure to forecast transportation demand in 2031. It also built in aggressive assumptions in shifting the share of goods moved by rail versus the road and highway network.
The EA found that a combination of solutions would be needed to help to manage the transportation demands of the area and the region’s growing population. Some of those solutions have already been implemented – such as Transportation Demand Management (e.g., providing travellers with real time travel information and variable message signing), the expansion of High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and supporting the expansion of GO transit service, among others.
Despite considering all other solutions first, the results of the EA were clear – a new highway and transit corridor would be needed in the western GTA. This was the case in all scenarios examined in order to meet the transportation demand from population and employment growth.
The Stage 1 EA looked at the need by 2031. We know that there will be even more people and jobs to accommodate in the region. By 2051, the GGH’s population is expected to grow to almost 15 million and traffic congestion will become even more unsustainable with the current infrastructure.
It is the hard work that went into the Stage 1 EA, and the work to assess all available options, that has led us to this point. But the work is not done.
The project is now in Stage 2 of the EA Study, which will look at defining the Preliminary Design of the preferred route for the new Highway 413 highway and transit corridor, while carefully minimizing impacts to the environment. The Preliminary Design of the preferred route is currently underway and is taking into consideration the protection of the natural environment, socio economic environment and cultural environment features.
As evidenced by the work to get us to this point, Ontario’s stringent EA process for this project is making sure that the proposed Highway 413 balances the benefits and impacts for the local communities, the users of the transportation system and the communities it connects.
Throughout the EA process, Ontario remains committed to a comprehensive consultation program – holding numerous community and advisory group meetings and engaging and consulting with Indigenous communities – giving people the information and opportunity to have their say about the Highway 413 Project.
Stay tuned for more as we continue our EA process by signing up for the project mailing list and visit the project website for updated information.