Summary: The Bradford Bypass is a proposed 16.2 km, 4 – 8 lane highway that would connect Highways 400 and 404 just below Lake Simcoe’s Cooks Bay. The proposed route is just north of Bradford, approximately 100 – 200 m from existing neighbourhoods and parks. It bisects the Holland Marsh Provincially Significant Wetland, proposing to use piers to hold up the bridge across this area. As of September 2022, there is no budget, no technical design drawings, and the studies are incomplete. But the province of Ontario changed its Environmental Assessment regulations and then exempted the Bradford Bypass from the Environmental Assessment process, substituting a streamlined process that identifies the route and allows construction to begin this fall regardless of the outcomes of environmental and traffic studies in progress. Minor changes to the route could occur depending on archaeological studies.
Bradford Bypass highway Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) Proposal was written. Substantially rewritten in 1994 and became legal terms of reference for the current EA Study to this day.
EA finished. Did not consider cumulative effects, climate change, or detail impacts on natural heritage, migratory birds, fisheries, First Nations, or discuss air pollution.
EA approved with conditions including requirements for upgraded studies on archaeological resources, stormwater management, groundwater protection plan, noise, and compliance monitoring.
This EA anticipated severe stormwater and groundwater impacts and adverse effects on fish habitat.
The project didn’t go ahead after the completion of the EA. Reasons include a change in provincial government that enacted major planning and environmental protection legislation: Greenbelt Act & Places to Grow Act. Together they laid the foundation for planning that was aimed at building more compact communities and transit over highways and sprawl.
Lake Simcoe Protection Act passed. Allows for major infrastructure if there is no alternative.
Ontario Liberals decided not to pursue the Bradford Bypass and then did an about-face and included it in the Growth Plan. Still, nothing happened.
Project was revived by the new Progressive Conservative government of Ontario, after nearly 20 years of inactivity on the file, with conditions of the 2002 EA approval not met. Updates to the understanding of the site conditions were supposed to be made every 5 years, and were not.
July 8, 2020
The Government of Ontario proposes to exempt the Bradford Bypass from the conditions of the original EA. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and the project consultant team, AECOM, present information about the Bypass to municipalities throughout this time, not mentioning the proposed exemptions or changes to the EA Act. They do not produce side-by-side comparisons of the old and the new process for an EA, so municipalities are led to believe that the studies that will be undertaken will mean something. They don’t. Read the exemption here – Environmental Registry of Ontario posting.
February 3, 2021
First attempt at a Federal Impact Assessment. Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, being represented by Ecojustice, request a Federal Impact Assessment of the project. The request raises the Project’s potential to cause adverse effects on areas of federal jurisdiction and public concerns related to those effects. It also raises concerns that the adequacy of the provincial environmental assessment process to address those issues, particularly in light of Ontario’s proposed exemption to the Environmental Assessment Act. This request is supported by a coalition of 21 environmental groups, including Ontario Nature, Wilderness Committee, Environmental Defence and many local groups.
May 3, 2021
Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson decides not to designate the Project for a Federal Impact Assessment. Minister’s response available here.
2020, July 21
Government passes regulations to change the Environmental Assessment Act, to “modernize and streamline” the provincial EA process.
July 24, 2021
Protest /Day of Action. Read media coverage from the East Gwillimbury Express.
October 7, 2021
EA Exemption regulation for the Bypass passed and comes into effect. This means the province will not produce a Transportation Environmental Study Report (TESR) for the preliminary design or a Design and Construction Report(s) (DCR) for the detailed design of the Bradford Bypass.
It also means they exempted this project from completing the conditions in the conditional approval from 2002. They will proceed without evaluating health impacts, climate change, and the impact on Lake Simcoe. Nothing in the studies they are doing will affect the route location, except for some minor adjustments in the route to avoid archaeological sites and a golf course.
October 31, 2021
The Narwhal’s Emma McIntosh and Toronto Star investigative journalist Sheila Wang release a damning story, including details of plans to toll the highway, that the Bypass route today received the worst score for environmental impact compared to other bypass options in the area, in contrast to government claims, and that it would need to be expanded to 6 lanes by 2041. Read the Toronto Star: What the Ford Government Hasn’t Told you Its Next Controversial Highway Project.
Public opinion poll regarding the Bradford Bypass highway reveals reversal of earlier apparent public support for the Bypass from a poll conducted by Bradford West Gwillimbury. The 2021 OraclePoll, commissioned by Lake Simcoe Watch, says: Opposition to the highway is 48%; 29% it and 23% are unsure. This after the following truthful statement was presented to those polled: “The government of Ontario is planning to build a 16 km, four lane Holland Marsh Highway to link Highways 400 and 404. The proposed highway would increase phosphorous and road salt pollution to Lake Simcoe, endanger fish spawning habitat, eliminate 23 acres of provincially significant wetland, and eliminate 81 acres of wildlife habitat. Do you support construction of this highway?”
November 9, 2021
East Gwillimbury-based Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces (FROGS) makes a second Impact Assessment designation request to the Federal Minister of Environment, now Hon. Steven Guilbeault, with two other community groups, Concerned Citizens of King Township and Stop the Bradford Bypass. The second request provided information about the way in which the exemption regulation changed the regulatory environment for the Project, and detailed increases in public concerns. It also provided additional information about the Project’s potential adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, including on fish habitat and greenhouse gas emissions.
Nov 13, 2021
Day of Action protest against the Bypass in front of Minister of Transportation and York Simcoe MPP Hon. Caroline Mulroney’s office.
May – December 2021
Seven Lake Simcoe watershed municipalities pass resolutions asking for better oversight of Bradford Bypass highway, an Impact Assessment, or impacts to Lake Simcoe studied. Read details in the December 9, 2021 update letter to Minister Guilbeault.
December 8, 2021
63 environmental groups representing tens of thousands of Ontarians write to the Minister to support the Second Request.
AECOM (consultant for MTO on this project) identifies that over 80 square metres of fish habitat would have to be permanently removed as a result of “early works” near Yonge street and Bradford’s 8th Line that would impact an un-named tributary containing direct warmwater fish habitat to the east of Yonge street. They suggest that MTO ask the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) if authorizations were required for the Bradford Bypass “early works” under the Fisheries Act.
The Pointer releases a story about a site in the path of the Bradford Bypass called the Lower Landing: ‘Bradford Bypass threatens ancient Indigenous Site ‘more significant than 95 percent of all historic/ archaeological sites in Canada.’
February 10, 2022
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Steven Guilbeault, rejects the second request for a Federal Impact Assessment of the Bradford Bypass. Read the Narwhal’s story: Federal government rejects second call for review of Ontario’s Bradford Bypass highway project. Minister’s response available here.
Coalition of environmental groups write to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to request that they do their job of protecting fish, and provide or deny, as appropriate, the permits needed for the work. Earlier, DFO staff said they needed to evaluate the impact of the entire project, but in the case of the Bradford Bypass, the provincial exemption regulation allows the project to be carved into smaller pieces, therefore allowing the project to proceed piecemeal, without an evaluation of the entire project. Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters also wrote to the MTO / AECOM team to suggest that DFO oversight of this was appropriate.
March 14, 2022
Lawsuit launched against Minister of Environment and Climate Change Hon. Steven Guilbeault, questioning whether he followed the Impact Assessment Act in his decision to not reconsider the request for a Federal Impact Assessment. Appellants are Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces (FROGS), Ontario Nature, Wildlands League, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Environmental Defence, and Earthtroots. “There are errors of fact in the Minister’s decision that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged” says Tim Gray of Environmental Defence. “For the sake of Canada’s environment and the communities dependent on it, we must make sure that destructive projects, such as bulldozing a super-highway through one of Ontario’s largest wetlands, receive a proper and thorough review.” National Observer article: Environmental groups file lawsuit against federal minister over Bradford Bypass.
March 23, 2022
DFO provides a “letter of advice” to the MTO Bypass team allowing for the removal of 80 square metres of fish habitat for the “early works” portion of the Bradford Bypass without a permit. It says effectively, (paraphrasing) ‘Go ahead. Use the following techniques to avoid harming or destroying fish habitat. It’s a self assessment system. Notify the DFO if you are in violation of the rules and if you are destroying fish habitat.’ (The request from the Bypass team clearly indicated that they were removing 80 sq meters of fish habitat.) This is a real head-scratcher.
April 23, 2022
Yours To Protect Earth Day protest against the Bradford Bypass.
DFO responds to a formal petition, sent by a member of the Stop the Bradford Bypass team, which asked many specific questions. The response indicated that there were never any instances between 2001 and 2022 where a Fisheries Act authorization or Species At Risk Act (SARA) permit was formally denied, or where a letter of advice was refused. The response also confirms that MTO never applied to DFO for any authorizations for any of the water crossings associated with the 404 extension from Green Lane to Ravenshoe road and had been permitted to self-assess any impacts on fish and fish habitat under a memorandum of understanding.
August 16, 2022
Environmental Conditions Report released and public comments are due one month later. Some studies that one would expect to be in an environmental conditions report are missing. Some still have not been updated in the field. There is no discussion of climate change or induced demand. The report only references greenhouse gas emissions in the context of an upcoming air quality assessment. There is no assessment of chloride (salt) or phosphorus impacts, or impacts to Lake Simcoe. The province requires the project proponents to complete a stormwater management plan, but there appears to be no requirement to follow it.
Traffic impacts: The MTO itself identifies the “Adequacy of facility to accommodate future travel demand” as an issue. The response is: “No commitments are identified by the proponent; however, traffic studies involving traffic modeling and analysis is being undertaken through Preliminary Design.” The modeling is not publicly available. Claims that the highway will improve local traffic are unsubstantiated because the highway will fill up with traffic quickly. This is “induced demand”. The ECR indicates that the project is being planned for 2 lanes each way but anticipates it expanding to 4 lanes each way (p. 315).
Human health impacts: The ECR identifies twenty “sensitive receptors” already in the Air Quality study area: 5 retirement homes, 6 daycares, 9 schools.
There are also nine planned “possible” sensitive receptors in Bradford West Gwillimbury within the Air Quality study area, including a new Simcoe County District School Board school. Henderson municipal park with soccer fields is also in the study area. (P. 195)
November 2, 2022
Hearing regarding the lawsuit / Judicial Review of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada not addressing the second request for a Federal Impact Assessment for this case.
Anticipated next steps:
Final Environmental Conditions Report (ECR) for Bradford Bypass Project will be released on the project website. No date given.
The Preliminary Design refinements, alternatives, and the evaluation, will be presented at Public Information Centre #2 in the fall of 2022.
Contact and consultation information for the Bypass project team. Sign up for updates.
Plan to start construction on bridge at Yonge St. (County Road 4) just north of Bradford. There are no detailed engineered drawings, no budget and the route details are not complete. While the timing is meant to coordinate construction with the widening of Yonge St at this location, critics argue that building the ‘early works’ bridge at this stage in the process is premature and establishes the route, regardless of the outcomes of studies underway.
End of 2022, early 2023
Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)will be available for review.
Selection of Preferred Alternative for the Bradford Bypass Project (minor route changes.)
Final Environmental Impact Assessment Report
Preliminary design complete
The Bradford Bypass’ consultant team’s schedule can be found here.