Environmental assessment of new Hwy. 7/12 route through Whitby cancelled, project shelved

By

Published June 23, 2023 at 10:25 am

Photo Cameron Bevers

The Town of Whitby has cancelled an environmental review for the proposed alternate route for Hwy. 7 and Hwy. 12 around Brooklin, effectively shelving the project.

The proposal for a Brooklin Bypass has been underway for at least eight years, with a goal of reducing heavy traffic on the two-lane highways through town, particularly transport trucks by moving traffic around the town.

However, many residents decried the plan saying it would “destroy” their homes, harm local businesses and cost Whitby too much money. The project carried a price tag of roughly $200 million. A 2021 survey found 49 per cent of residents were strongly opposed to the project while 35 per cent were strongly in favour of it.

Many were also upset with the proposed route itself noting it would force some of them to vacate their homes to be “plowed over.” Mayor Elizabeth Roy, who also lived in the area, chaired a public meeting about the project while she was a councillor and said it was “not a great feeling at all,” to learn of the proposed route.

Such projects take years of work before shovels ever break ground and the process toward the Brooklin Bypass continued its slow march through various studies and committees until a council decision was made on June 19 to scrap the whole thing.

One of the major contentious issues of the bypass was the preferred route would potentially damage environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine lands. The previous Council asked the consultant, BT Engineering, to look at options that don’t impact the moraine but were told those routes were “lower scoring” and were dismissed.

Former Mayor Don Mitchell apeared as a delegate at the meeting asking Council to re-consider the decision to cancel the EA, noting that stopping the EA will not ensure a future Council won’t agree to a bypass that will go through the environmentally sensitive landscape.

“The only way to ensure this road will not end up on the moraine is to continue with the EA.”

The tipping point for the current Whitby Council was cost, as the consultant had requested another $200,000-plus to tie the EA in with another environmental assessment linking Columbus Road with the 7th Concession in Pickering at Lakeridge Road.

The potential to realign Columbus Road with the 7th Concession in Pickering would have a potential impact on bypass design and add additional cost and scope to the project, according to a staff report.

“This decision was not made lightly and was the result of concerns about the financial impact of the project on Whitby taxpayers and the environmental impact of a preferred route that would cut through the Oak Ridges Moraine,” said Roy. “I am confident that we can find solutions that do not require a costly highway and do not threaten our natural environment.”

Town staff will be reporting back to Council in the coming months on next steps and Council will be initiating conversations with the Province about how to move forward, she added.

“Whitby Council continues to support a vision for Baldwin Street that focuses on downtown revitalization, pedestrian safety, and streamlined development approvals.”

With files from Glenn Hendry

indurham's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising