Newmarket is joining the chorus of voices asking for further study into the environmental impact of the Bradford Bypass.
Council moved to ask the province to conduct an updated environmental assessment for the controversial highway project and failing that, ask the federal government to conduct a federal impact assessment of the proposal.
Environmental groups requested the move, getting other area municipalities to make similar motions. Mayor John Taylor said an updated environmental assessment is warranted.
"Traffic is an ongoing challenge but I do think we also owe everyone involved ... due process, and I think due process is a provincial EA," he said. "This highway has been in planning for 25 years, I think 26 years with due process is a better outcome than 25 without."
The proposed highway will connect Highway 400 to Highway 404, from Bradford West Gwillimbury to East Gwillimbury. But it has garnered concern over its possible environmental impact in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Environmental groups are calling for greater scrutiny than the current environmental assessment of the project, which is approximately 24 years old.
Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition executive director Claire Malcomson presented to council, seeking a resolution asking for a federal assessment. She said there needs to be more study given the environmental sensitivity in the proposed route.
"Your role is not just to stay in your lane and support ideas that have been around a long time but to act in the best interests of your constituents," she said to council.
She said there is some time sensitivity to the initiative, given the province sent out tenders for bridge construction Nov. 26 that could make it difficult to change the route.
Council also received 23 letters asking for a resolution for further assessment, as well as a deputation from the group Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces.
Other area municipalities have made similar resolutions, including East Gwillimbury, Georgina and Barrie. Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh said York Region has historically supported the bypass but has not discussed it recently. He said the region would review it again soon.
The province has said the bypass is needed to support growth in the region and will generate $70 million in real GDP.
“With Simcoe County and York Region expected to experience rapid growth over the next 10 to 20 years, investing in this new corridor is absolutely necessary if we are going to ease gridlock on Highway 400 and existing east-west local roads,” Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney said in a Nov. 26 press release. “Gridlock hurts everyone. It prevents people from getting home at a reasonable time and our farmers from getting goods to market.”
Taylor said there is a contradiction between the province not seeking a new environmental assessment for the Bradford Bypass but requiring an expert panel to review the completed 2014 assessment for Upper York Sewage Solutions.
“I find that extremely confusing,” he said.