404 Extension a Highway to Sprawl, Environmental Groups Charge

April 13, 2006

The extension of Highway 404 to Ravenshoe Road in the Town of East Gwillimbury (York Region), announced in the March 23 Ontario budget, and confirmed in the estimates released April 11, threatens the newly established Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt and will promote sprawling urban development of agricultural and natural heritage lands north of the Oak Ridges Moraine, according to four leading environmental organizations.

The extension would take Highway 404 to the southern tip of Lake Simcoe. It is key infrastructure that would fuel the urbanization of agricultural lands in the Queensville, Sharon and Holland Land areas of York Region north of the Oak Ridges Moraine as well as much of south Simcoe County. The route of the extension passes through the Greenbelt established by the provincial government last year.

"It is a road to sprawl, plain and simple," said Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science at Ontario Nature. "The extension cannot be rationalized as facilitating the movement of commercial goods (truck freight) and would perpetuate car-oriented instead of transit-based urban development."

"The 404 extension would contradict the policies to control urban sprawl put in place by the provincial government over the past two years, including the Greenbelt Plan, amendments to the Planning Act, and the revised Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act," said Paula Boutis, Staff Lawyer at the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

"The 404 extension is highly premature. The province's proposed growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), intended to integrate land use planning and transportation infrastructure and promote more sustainable urban development patterns, has yet to be approved," said Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. "The extension would contradict key elements of the proposed growth plan, including its focus on transit and pedestrian-oriented development and the redevelopment and intensification of existing urban areas rather than automobile-dependent sprawl onto prime agricultural lands."

"This highway extension would contradict York Region's own stated focus on transit-oriented development south of the Oak Ridges Moraine," said Mark Winfield, Director of Environmental Governance at the Pembina Institute. " The environmental assessment for this extension was completed in 2002, before the above provincial policy changes were made. The extension to Ravenshoe Road should not even be considered until the GGH growth plan and a comprehensive transportation plan for the GGH are approved. A new environmental assessment of the 404 extension, taking into account the provincial planning policy changes, must be conducted."

The Highway 404 extension would lay the groundwork for further highway expansions that would facilitate automobile-dependent sprawl. The long-term plan for the highway includes an extension eastward along the south shore of Lake Simcoe all the way to Highway 12.

For more information, please contact:

Rick Smith, Environmental Defence (416) 323-9521 ext. 225

Wendy Francis, Ontario Nature (416) 444-8419 ext. 239

Mark Winfield, Pembina Institute (416) 978-5656

Paula Boutis, Sierra Legal Defence Fund (416) 368-7533 ext. 34

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