For Immediate Release: June 30, 2011
‘Greenbelt Expressway’ the wrong way says Ontario Greenbelt Alliance: Spending billions on new ‘GTA West Corridor’ through Vaughan would be better spent on alternatives like transit and rail
Vaughan, ON — The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is asking the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to halt their plans to build a new super-highway through one of the most sensitive parts of the Greenbelt in favour of growing transit and rail infrastructure instead.
Comments to the McGuinty government on the proposed new GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment are due today, June 30, 2011.
“Every planning student in the world knows new highways lead to new commuters, which leads to new grid-lock and more new highways,” said Shiloh Bouvette, Greenbelt Program Manger with Environmental Defence. “Putting a massive new highway through the Greenbelt or the Oak Ridges Moraine is not protecting our natural heritage and it is not planning for smart growth of our communities.”
The highway will cut through the Greenbelt in one of the most significant Natural Heritage Systems. This includes the Purpleville Creek headwaters (endangered red side dace habitat)/East Humber River environmentally significant area (ESA #127)/Humber River/Cold Creek environmental policy areas. The draft GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment study recognizes that the natural features of this area are important and must be protected.
The Greenbelt Plan policy stipulates that “ New or expanding infrastructure shall avoid key natural heritage features or key hydrologic features unless need has been demonstrated and it has been established that there is no reasonable alternative.”
MTO claims the new highway is meant to serve the new growth areas identified in Places to Grow  and to connect the Urban Growth Centres , but Councillor Deb Schulte of Vaughan and Councillor Debbie Schaefer of King Township say this will not be the case and there are viable alternatives that need to be explored.
“The proposed highway through Vaughan severs our significant Greenbelt lands and does not serve our high growth areas as stated. It is planned to traverse the northern portion of the City that is not planned for growth, and it does not connect our important Vaughan Metropolitan Area. As far as I can tell it would be all downside with no upside for residents of Vaughan,” said Deb Schulte, Vaughan Regional Councillor.
Councillor Schaefer and Councillor Schulte   also point to what they believe are viable alternatives, including improving transit and providing commuter links to Vaughan City Centre via the subway link and LRT and to Guelph and Bolton. They say these improved transit services will result in less commuter traffic on the roads and allow trucks easier access.  
Additionally, the government can make improvements to rail corridors and create incentives for industry to rely on rail rather than trucking to get goods to market.
“We need a new priority in the region, not new highways running across the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine,” said Councillor Debbie Schaefer of King Township.” There are indeed reasonable alternatives here and they include investment in the Metrolinx plan and an integrated transportation network to improve the movement of goods and services, as well as managing congestion to reduce commuting times.”

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of close to 100 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)