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Op-Ed: Bradford mayor responds to opposition on building of Bradford Bypass

Those opposing Bradford Bypass picking and choosing what parts of the Greenbelt they support, mayor says
Mayor Rob Keffer

BradfordToday received the following letter from Mayor Rob Keffer regarding the opposition for the Bradford Bypass:

In recent weeks, a group of individuals led by a former unsuccessful York—Simcoe NDP candidate has come forward to oppose the Bradford Bypass, even though it is supported by all local and regional councils, MPs and MPPs in our area.

Last week I had the pleasure to listen to a presentation by Victor Doyle, a former Provincial Planner who some say is the father of the Greenbelt.  He made it very clear that infrastructure, like highways were always allowed to be built in the Greenbelt. 

The Greenbelt has been very successful in stopping unnecessary urban boundary expansion and sprawl.  Those opposing this highway say they are strong supporters of the Greenbelt, but they are picking and choosing what parts of the Greenbelt .they support and they lose credibility when they do so.

Despite their vocal opposition on social media, in their discussion event earlier this month, this group conceded that the Bypass will “reduce traffic congestion."

In fact, an estimate from the Ministry of Transportation says the Bypass will reduce travel times by as much as a half hour – a significant time savings for commuters, which would alleviate gridlock along our local roads.  Any local resident would realize how long it takes to get from Hwy 400 to Hwy 404 with the sheer number of traffic lights to go through.  At 100 km/hr on a controlled access highway, it would take less than 10 minutes to go 16 km.

This group also conceded, “The environmental assessment for the bypass was completed” and that some 15 additional environmental studies have since been ordered. They also “acknowledged that the highway does not impact the Holland Marsh specialty crop area south of Bradford and Holland Landing."

Nonetheless, this group objects to building the highway just north of Bradford West Gwillimbury and East Gwillimbury. It should be noted that they also objected to the Highway 404 extension to Keswick that was completed last decade.

When it came to a discussion of potential solutions for traffic issues other than the Bypass, they shockingly argued “that a solution would be to ‘distribute the traffic to the “regional” road system,’ displaying a map of new road links cutting through the Holland marsh polder” and “suggested that Bradford West Gwillimbury should look at ‘alternate access routes’ – routes that she identified as cutting through the Holland Marsh agricultural specialty crop zone, south of Bradford, to link up with Highway 9 and Green Lane."

It should be obvious that opposing the Bypass and proposing that we instead build an indeterminate number of road networks through the actual Holland Marsh specialty crop area is ludicrous at best and hypocritical at worst.

It is important to remember that the Bypass was put back on the Growth Plan by former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and now-Liberal leader Steven Del Duca when he was Transportation Minister, and our local MPP and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Premier Doug Ford have moved it forward for design and eventually construction. It has been the subject of studies, official plans and other planning documents for over three decades.

Further, in the 2018 Ontario general election, candidates representing the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and NDP specifically committed to supporting the project, demonstrating the consensus in favour of the project amongst the three main parties represented in the Ontario legislature.

Indeed, a public opinion poll in 2016 found that 85 per cent of Bradford West Gwillimbury residents surveyed supported the project, with only five per cent opposed.

I share concerns about our environment, but simply advancing a series of unsubstantiated and disparate objections is insufficient to justify opposition to this project, especially when the growth has outpaced the infrastructure needed.

Our agricultural community is in support of the bypass because of the frustration and danger they face with the traffic congestion on rural roads.  Make no mistake we will lose our farm community who will move to greener pastures if nothing is done about traffic.

Imagine what our community will look like in 30 years if we don't build the Bradford Bypass?  Is that the legacy we want to leave our children and grand children?

Rob Keffer