Barrie is tempering its response to the Bradford bypass, which will link Highways 400 and 404 across the Holland Marsh wetlands.
City councillors gave initial approval Monday night to a motion requesting the province to conduct a comprehensive impact assessment on Lake Simcoe, in accordance with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, and those vulnerable watersheds and inflows into Lake Simcoe. A copy of the resolution would be forwarded to the provincial minister of transportation, provincial minister of the environment, conservation and parks, all local MPPs and MPs and municipalities along the Lake Simcoe watershed along with a request for support.
“The fact is this project (Bradford bypass) has been desired, aspired to, in one way or another, for decades,” said Coun. Sergio Morales. “This is a critical piece of infrastructure that will completely transform the economy, the travel flow in Bradford and the surrounding area. So this is a big deal for them.
“And it’s a big deal for us — the residents in all of our wards that commute to York Region, maybe even those road warriors who go to the Durham Region," he added.
“All of the growth that is occurring in Simcoe County that has to travel this route right now goes right through the middle of downtown Bradford, and as a consequence Bradford is not able to achieve its own goals for active transportation, a better pedestrian realm downtown and it is seeing the economic impacts as well of congestion, with is growing quickly, because Bradford is growing quickly,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said.
However, motions requesting the Canadian government to conduct a comprehensive federal environmental impact assessment of the proposed Bradford bypass and make the results available to the public, as well as ask the province to conduct the 15 studies as outlined as conditions to the class environmental assessment for the project, in addition to studying the potential impacts on Lake Simcoe and the climate, were both defeated by Barrie councillors.
The federal government decided earlier this month that the Bradford bypass project didn’t warrant a federal assessment under the Impact Assessment Act, which may have helped tip the scales.
“It’s quite clear the federal government has already made its decision when it comes to this. They’re not looking at this bypass any further,” Coun. Gary Harvey said. “I really have some concern that we’re out of our lane, that we’re starting to embark in some areas that we don’t have any business.
“We’re dealing with something that is 40 minutes away from us, to the south,” he said, noting the bypass has the support of Bradford’s neighbours. “I really don’t understand why we’re getting involved in this and also, too, so late in the game.”
Coun. Clare Riepma disagreed and supports asking the feds to take another look.
“This is not just an overpass. This is a major piece of highway — 16 kilometres long — and with a lot of Barrie people, if it’s built, driving on it,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves whether this is going to have an environmental impact or not and I suspect the answer is yes.
“The point is the city of Barrie does care because we surround Kempenfelt Bay and whatever happens as a result of… this highway, it’s going to end up at our doorstep, and that’s why we care," Riepma added.
Coun. Keenan Aylwin also supports a federal investigation.
“The reality is greenhouse gas emissions and climate change don’t respect municipal boundaries,” he said. “We’re in a climate of urgency and building a highway should consider the full climate impacts of such a decision, as well as the water quality impacts.”
City council will consider final approval of these motions at its May 31 meeting.