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  • Writer's pictureSukhneet Singh

Highway 413: Do we really need more roads that make the rich, richer?

Updated: May 7, 2021

More highways, less traffic, faster commute times. But is this really the true motivation for another highway?

Doug Ford has recently announced the construction of another 400-series highway, the 413. This highway will run parallel to the 401 and 407 going through Halton Hills, Caledon, Brampton, and Vaughn. However, this is not the first time this project has been announced. Since 2005, the PC party has been attempting to pass this project but was cancelled by Kathleen Wynne and is now resurrected by Doug Ford.

Ford claims this highway will decrease commute times and bring economic development to the regions this highway will pass through. But are these Ford’s true intentions for constructing another highway? Experts have criticized this plan as the highway will only cut average commute times by 30-60 seconds. Additionally, the 413 is located away from the heart of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and will not significantly decrease commute times within the GTA. If someone is driving from Georgetown to Orillia, then perhaps it will cut the commute time, but this is not the case for a large majority of GTA residents that Ford claims the highway will help.

The only way to solve the GTA traffic problem and continue to meet the demands of the growing population needs to be through public transportation. Through investment in public transportation, there will be less cars on the road, resulting in decreased commute times. The current public transport infrastructure is not adequate in accommodating the needs of GTA residents. The $6 billion price tag of this highway is only going to increase and these funds can be better used towards improving public transportation, as Canada’s public transit systems are years behind that of other developed countries. Studies have shown that building highways and increasing highway lanes is only a short-term solution as residents adjust and increase their driving accordingly.[1]

In addition to public transportation, there are also other policy options available to help ease traffic on highways. One option that has been considered is increasing truck traffic on the 407. Due to the pandemic, the 407 is very underused and this has been an issue prior to the pandemic as well. Currently the 407 is suffering due to a lack of revenue and the provincial government can use this as leverage to strike a deal for increased truck access, as trucks do take up a large portion of highways, specifically the 401. The private sector takes advantage of the government and taxpayers in times of budget restraint. This may seem harsh to free market advocates, but now is the time for the public sector to return the favor and look out for the interest of taxpayers, instead of providing a relief package for the 407 International Inc.

Another short-term alternative to the 413 is increasing HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle). HOV lanes encourage carpooling and significantly decrease commute times. Through this policy option, there will be a decreased demand for new highways and widening existing highways. HOV lanes also avoid the destruction of farmland and the green belt while providing decreasing commute times. Only environmentally sustainable policy options need to be considered moving forward in dealing with traffic while keeping in mind the effects of climate change.

In addition to the policy alternatives, the 413 has severe negative effects on the environment, health of Ontarians, the Provincial budget, and exemplifies corruption. The proposed route for the 413 goes through 2,000 acres of farmlands and 400 acres of the protected greenbelt while disrupting 220 wetlands and habitats of 10 species at risk of extinction.[2] Ontario’s greenbelt is the largest in the world and is a major factor in protecting our wildlife and fighting climate change. Ford breaking this protection creates a slippery slope, as he will only pursue further developments in the green belt without any regard for the upcoming effects of climate change.

Farmers will lose their land, impacting their livelihood and the food production in Ontario. Since Doug Ford is a big supporter of economic growth, what about the $35 billion in annual revenue from farming in Ontario?[3] Unfortunately, the farmers aren't seen as rich and influential for Doug Ford to really care. Farming is an integral part of Ontario's economy and the Golden Horseshoe region which this highway is going to cut through is North America’s third largest farming economy.[4] Destroying farmland will negatively impact local food accessibility in Ontario’s most populated regions. This is also impactful on climate change as purchasing locally grown cuts emissions from transportation. Additionally, the health of Ontarians is affected by this physically and mentally. The green belt is a carbon sink and provides Canadians with an escape from their busy lives with the opportunity to visit conservation areas, engage in outdoor activities, and connect with nature.

Since the 413 does not help with commute times and is going to destroy the greenbelt and fertile farmland, then what is Ford’s true motivation? Ford’s only interest here is to make his developer friends richer and increase the presence of big corporations in developing cities and towns. Ford has relationships and history with eight of the most powerful developers that have land near the proposed route of this highway.[5] Big corporations and making the rich richer is the true motivation of the 413.

There are numerous policy options to decrease commute times without jeopardizing the environment and prioritizing Ford’s rich friends. Ford must be held accountable and it is our jobs as Ontarians to stop the construction of this highway. Through his time as Premier, Doug Ford continues to partially uphold one of his campaign slogans of being for the people, except he left out the part that he’s only for rich people. Aside from all of the obvious reasons this highway should not be constructed, are 60 seconds really worth $6 billion?

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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