Photo by Michael Gil via Flickr
Recently Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca suspended the Environmental Assessment for a highway known as the GTA West or “The 413.” The 413 would curve south-west from the 400 at King-Vaughan Road and meet the 407 and 401 roughly at Winston Churchill Blvd. It would have to cross the Greenbelt several times to get there.
Now Minister Del Duca has appointed a panel to examine the need for the highway at all. The work of the independent panel has started, and it is expected to provide its advice to the Minster of Transportation sometime this fall.
The review can really only conclude one thing: the 413 needs to be permanently cancelled. Here is why:
First, Highway 413 is projected to cost $5 billion to build. Given that all major infrastructure project costs invariably exceed estimates, the capital expenses will be even higher. But that’s not the really important number. The life time cost, calculated at a 75 year lifespan, is over $55 billion. Even as a toll road it will recover less than 40 per cent of that cost. In other words, taxpayers would be on the hook to subsidize the four-laner for about $500 million each year. Instead, the $5 billion dollar capital investment could mean 24km of new rapid transit, moving millions of people every year more than this highway ever could. The $500m a year in maintenance costs could be better spent on countless provincial initiatives in transit, climate change, or agriculture.
Second, to build the 413, part of Ontario’s nearly two million acres of permanently protected Greenbelt and adjacent farmland would have to be paved over. In the past decade alone, we have lost some 350 acres of farmland a day, or the equivalent of 131,000 football fields. We can’t afford to lose more. This highway would also destroy countless natural treasures that clean our water and filter our air. The land is simply worth more, and provides more services to Ontarians, being farmed or kept green as compared to a gridlocked highway.
Third, the recent Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions to minimize the impact of climate change has a clear message: the planet needs to de-carbonize. A diet of low carbon transportation like rail or mass transit is needed. Not more gas guzzlers.
In her last book, Spadina Expressway slayer Jane Jacobs reminds us that “Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of communities.” Let’s make sure that won’t happen with the 413.