The federal government says it will undertake an environmental assessment of a controversial proposed highway in the northwestern GTA.
Highway 413 has drawn criticism from environmental advocates, who fear the nearly 60-kilometre road will drive up greenhouse gas emissions in the millions of tonnes over the next three decades.
A statement from Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson released on Monday says the federal impact assessment agency, along with other departments, have identified “clear areas of federal concern related to this project.”
Speaking to CBC Toronto Monday afternoon, Wilkinson said that in particular, there was “significant concern around the number of federally-listed species at risk, and the potential impact on their critical habitat.”
A number of environmental groups, scientists and municipalities had called on Ottawa to perform its own assessment.
A decades-old idea that was abandoned by Kathleen Wynne’s government and then resurrected under Premier Doug Ford, Highway 413 has been the target of significant criticism in the region.
A number of councils, including Toronto, Mississauga, Orangeville, and Halton Hills, have all passed motions voicing their opposition.
The province, meanwhile, has maintained that the highway is necessary to serve a rapidly growing population and take the pressure off congested roads.
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No federal assessment for Bradford Bypass
Meawnhile, the federal government is declining to do its own environmental assessment on a nearby proposed highway that’s also raised concerns among environmental groups.
The Bradford Bypass, also called the Holland Marsh Highway, is an an east-west thoroughfare between Highway 400 and Highway 404. Wilkinson told CBC News the project doesn’t merit a federal review in comparison with Highway 413.
“The fundamental difference was, while there are certainly still some potential impacts on areas of federal jurisdiction, they did not rise to the same level as the GTA West project.”