Why are Technically Preferred Corridors being considered that cross the Oak Ridges Moraine, considering the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan 2017?
The study is being undertaken in a manner that recognizes the significance of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the goals of the Oak Ridges Conservation Plan, while following the requirements of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act for highway route locations.
The Environmental Assessment Act requires that all reasonable and feasible planning alternatives and route location corridor alternatives be identified, investigated, and evaluated with the goal of selecting a corridor that results in the greatest benefits with the least adverse impacts. In accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act requirements, the route location process has considered corridor alternatives that cross the Oak Ridges Moraine. During the current online Community Open House No. 3, the Technically Preferred Corridor A and Alignment Refinements (A and A-R) are being presented for public and agency review and comments.
The Study is subject to the requirements of the MTO Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Transportation Facilities (Class EA). The MTO Class EA recognizes, in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act, that there could be occasions when a route location study may propose crossing one of the three Provincially Designated Areas (Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment, and Greenbelt). In recognition of this possibility, MTO has established Guidelines that “recognize the inherent significance of these areas and their special environmental protection status, and therefore that extra effort go into data gathering, understanding the environment, understanding the potential impacts of the project, avoidance of impacts, and actions to mitigate residual impacts.”
The Guidelines are titled: Environmental Impact Study Considerations for the Oak Ridges Moraine and Environmental Protection Requirements for Transportation Planning and Highway Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance. These two Guidelines have been followed in accordance with their intended use in the planning and design process for crossing two of the Oak Ridges Moraine three Areas (Natural Core Areas, Natural Linkage Areas, and Countryside Areas). It should be noted that the Study Corridor alternatives do not cross and are distant from the Natural Core Areas, and only cross the Natural Linkage and Countryside Areas. This separation will ensure that the ecological integrity of the Natural Core Areas are preserved.
Finally, it must be realized that the route location study is currently in the Evaluation and Selection of the Technically Preferred Plan phase. Once comments from Community Open House No. 3 have been received, reviewed and considered, the Study will enter the Refinements to the Technically Preferred Plan and Recommended Plan phase, where the two Guidelines will again be applied as the design is “fine-tuned”. The Refinement phase will result in the Technically Preferred Plan and Recommended Plan that will be presented at the future Community Open House No. 4. After the Community Open House No. 4 comments have been reviewed and considered, the Transportation Environmental Study Report will be finalized, and a Notice of Completion of Study will be placed in newspapers which will announce the commencement the 30-day public review period.
Why has Brooklin traffic now potentially become a rural area problem?
The entire Town of Whitby is growing fast, especially in the north and west parts of our community. In fact, over the next 11 years, our Town's population is expected to grow by more than 40 percent.
Traffic congestion is also growing, having an increasingly negative impact on our residents' quality of life. And with no action, in the coming years, this traffic congestion currently being experienced in developed areas of our community will fast become a rural concern as well.
Creating an alternate Highway 7/12 roadway is an important part of the solution to this problem. The roadway will also help support provincially mandated growth and the Town's Council-approved vision for land-use planning, including the Town's Transportation Master Plan, which provides guidance for creating efficient and safe transportation throughout Whitby.
Have impacts to the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine been considered?
The loss of lands in the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine were considered as part of the technical evaluation. Although all alternatives considered had impacts to these lands, the preferred corridor carried forward minimized effects by bundling the route with existing roads. In the next phase of the study, mitigation for any residual effects of the preferred corridor will be considered and recommendations will be presented at COH No. 4. Any issues identified by stakeholders at COH No. 3 will be considered for mitigation where possible.
Has Scugog Township been involved on this team and making this decision?
The Town of Whitby has always welcomed and encouraged participation from Scugog Township in this project. Township of Scugog staff are part of the project Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and participated in reviewing the evaluation results. Scugog Township staff were also invited to participate in the development and weighting of the evaluation criteria but were not available to participate. The evaluation results were presented to the Township of Scugog Council, and Township Council provided a resolution with concerns from the Township. The Township Council input has been considered and was used in developing refinements to the top-ranked corridor alternatives. The assessment of refinements has resulted in consideration of an East-West Connection for the new route, which significantly reduces direct impacts to the Township.
Why have the Mid-Block Arterial and Thickson Road not been selected as the new Provincial Highway?
The Mid-Block Arterial and Thickson Road were considered as one of the ten alternate highway options. They were evaluated in-depth using our broad and specific criteria. A technical review was undertaken as part of this evaluation, and each alternative received a score. The Mid-Block Arterial and Thickson Road were ranked the lowest due to the negative social impacts expanding these highways would have on the community. These alternatives also would not support our land-use vision and planning. In addition, the Mid-Block Arterial and Thickson Road alternatives do not meet the provincial needs of connecting to other toll-free, provincial roads.
Why is the Town responsible for the cost of this project, and what is the cost?
This project is a final step in realizing the Town's long-term growth plan for the community. The cost to implement the project ranges from $155 million to over $200 million, depending on the corridor alternative. As the design development continues, more detailed and accurate cost estimates will be developed.
Since the road is a provincial highway is it possible to consider alternatives that may be outside the Whitby area?
We want to ensure that this infrastructure is delivered at a minimal cost to taxpayers. Having the highway located in Whitby means we are able to use Whitby-specific Development Charges to fund it. Under the conditions of the Town’s current Development Charges agreement, the Highway 7/12 Route is to be 100% funded by Development Charges. It would also mean that we can deliver on our provincially mandated growth requirements and move forward on our vision for Downtown Brooklin which is to create a walkable, safe downtown core that supports both businesses and quality of life for our residents. The Town would not be able to implement and fund a roadway that is not within its boundary.
Will the project reduce traffic in downtown Brooklin?
It is forecast that a significant volume of traffic will be diverted from travelling through downtown Brooklin. Provincial traffic will be diverted to the new corridor and local/regional traffic will be diverted to Thickson Road. Local traffic will continue to use Baldwin Street.
What is the expected change in traffic along the new route?
The Lake Ridge Road section of the new route already carries a significant volume of longer distance traffic. With the designation of the new corridor, it is anticipated that Lake Ridge Road will be planned as a 4-lane facility from Winchester Road northerly to Brawley Road. Any widening north of Brawley Road will be assessed in the next phase of the study and the timing will be dependent on the pace of development. The section of highway from Lake Ridge Road to the existing alignment at the Whitby /Scugog boundary is expected to be a 2-lane highway.
Will sound level effects be considered?
In the next phase of the study, mitigation measures will be considered to address any sound level effects of the project. Future sound levels will be forecast and the predicted sound level changes will be compared to provincial mitigation criteria. Mitigation measures will be considered where technically and economically feasible.
What is the timing for implementation of the project?
The timing for implementation of the project is not known. It will be negotiated with the MTO and require several steps before construction can occur, including roadway transfer agreements, purchase of lands and detail design. The EA will need to be complete before any works can be considered to be placed on the 5-year capital plan. By establishing a future plan, the Town will initiate protection of the new roadway corridor. Construction of the project will be subject to the availability of funding and competing priorities of Council.
What will be the future restrictions on lands along the new highway corridor?
Following roadway transfers between the Town, Region and MTO, the new corridor will be subject to MTO corridor management policies.
How was the preliminary preferred corridor selected?
The short list of corridor alternatives was evaluated considering the performance of the route as a Provincial highway, environmental effects (natural, cultural, and social environment; economic; and land use) and the cost to implement. A quantitative evaluation was undertaken by an Evaluation Committee of technical experts with municipal, provincial and agency input. The highest ranked alternative provided the best balanced solution for a new highway corridor.
What is the difference between a Residential Property Impact and a Partial Residential Property Impact?
A Residential Property Impact is a potential property buyout, based on the anticipated impacts of the recommended route. A Partial Residential Property Impact is an impact that does not require a buyout, but may require some property for road widening.
Is there flexibility to modify the recommendations to date?
The alternatives were evaluated based on a comprehensive technical evaluation, with corridor Alt A (Lake Ridge-Townline) identified as the highest “scoring” alternative. At this stage of the planning study, this is a preliminary conclusion. The team has advanced work on the design elements of this alternative to understand how remaining impacts can be minimized. Feedback received from stakeholders as part of the COH 3 will be used to confirm and refine the technical evaluation findings where and as appropriate. There is flexibility to modify the recommendations to date within the parameters of the evaluation. i.e. refinements to the evaluation criteria assessment in light of new information for a specific criteria may result in a change in the score for an alternative. This may result in subtle changes to the alternative scores that improve a alternative’s ranking by one or two places but is not likely to result in a wholesale reordering of the alternatives.