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'Significant project': Bradford Bypass moves a step closer to reality

Minister of Transportation announces province has awarded a $16M contract to AECOM for detailed design of the western portion of the bypass

After more than two decades, design work is finally set to get underway on the actual route of the Bradford Bypass.

Joined by Bradford Mayor James Leduc and York—Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, Prabmeet Sarkaria announced the province has awarded a $16-million contract to AECOM for the detailed design of the western 6.5-kilometre portion of the route from Highway 400 to County Road 4 (Yonge Street), at a construction site on that street just north of Line 8 on Thursday morning, May 9.

“As Ontario grows at a historic rate, there has never been a more urgent time to get shovels in the ground and build new highways and roads,” Sarkaria said. “Not only will the Bradford Bypass help save a generation of drivers from bumper-to-bumper traffic, but it will also create good-paying jobs and drive economic growth for decades to come.”

The bypass is planned to be a four-lane controlled access highway spanning 16.3 km to link Highway 400 and Highway 404.

The mayor thanked the ministers and the provincial government for their continued commitment to the “significant project,” and reiterated that as the town is expected to grow to about 85,000 people by 2051, traffic and congestion is expected to continue to be an issue.

“This is why the bypass is a critical piece of infrastructure for our town and surrounding communities,” he said. “We’re eager to see where the next phase of the bypass will take us.”

Several of the town’s own road projects hinge on the timing of the bypass, including the reconstruction of Holland Street in the downtown.

Work on that project was postponed by council on Nov. 21, because at the time, design details of the bypass were unknown, but now the mayor feels they have an “assurance that the bypass is going to be built.”

“That actually puts us back on track to potentially run that Holland Street reconstruction,” he said, adding that a decision on the timing is still expected to be determined at the end of this year when staff are expected to provide a report.

That will look at how various projects from the province, county and town can be co-ordinated “in a manner where it doesn’t impact everyone that harshly.”

When it comes to the Holland Street reconstruction in particular, “I do anticipate to get that construction started in this term,” the mayor said. “I will try to get that done.”

It’s not just Bradford that is growing though, and Sarkaria said Ontario’s population is expected to increase by 40 per cent over the next 25 years, with the population of the Greater Golden Horseshoe expected to grow from 10 million to almost 15 million.

That growth is one part of why the province included in its 2024 budget more than $27 billion in funding over the next 10 years to support the planning and construction of highway expansion and rehabilitation projects, according to Sarkaria.

However, the question of when people can actually expect the bypass to be complete went unanswered, despite being asked by multiple members of media.

“From a timeline perspective, we’re getting shovels in the ground right away,” Sarkaria said, clarifying the construction on the route is expected to begin in 2025. “We’ll leave no stone unturned in ensuring this project proceeds as quickly as possible.”

The minister also did not directly answer questions from BradfordToday about when local residents can expect the province to complete work on widening their section of County Road 4, nor when residents can expect work to begin on the realignment of the intersection with Line 8.

“Everything we have started we are trying to ensure is completed in a very timely manner,” Sarkaria said, adding that provincial Bill 162, Get It Done Act, to speed up timelines for construction passed third reading in the house the day prior.

Dakota Brasier, senior communications advisor, followed-up later in the day to say the ministry expects the Country Road 4 early works project will be completed by the end of this year.

While the exact timeline for the rest of the bypass remains unclear, Mulroney reiterated the importance of moving forward with the project.

“The people of York—Simcoe have been asking the province to build this critical piece of infrastructure for almost five decades,” she said in reference to the bypass’s troubled history. “This investment for the detailed design of the western section of the project is a significant milestone for the Bradford Bypass.”

The highway link is a long time coming, and while separate plans for an extension of Highway 89 were announced as early as the late 1970s, the environmental assessment for a Highway 400-404 link was approved on Aug. 28, 2002 and design work announced by the province on Oct. 4 of the same year.

However, following the election in 2003, subsequent governments shelved the project until it was once again included in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe on May 18, 2017.

Then, on Aug. 15, 2019, Mulroney, then minister of transportation, announced that planning for the Bradford Bypass would resume, and on Nov. 9, 2022, she and Premier Doug Ford visited Bradford to announce the start of construction on early works.

Those include the widening of County Road 4 to four lanes as well as the construction of a bridge over the bypass route. Work was able to proceed as part of Ontario Regulation 697/21, which was passed by the provincial government and received royal assent in October 2021.

That regulation was proposed by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and exempts certain MTO projects, including the early work on the Bradford Bypass from certain requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act.

That has resulted in backlash from local residents and environmental groups, leading to court challenges and admonishments from political leaders.

Issues of property expropriation and the design of the interchange proposed for Sideroad 10 have also concerned local residents, and led Sarjeant Co. to seek relocation of their concrete batching plant.

“Ontario has some of the strongest environmental protections of anywhere in North America,” Sarkaria said Thursday, in response to a question about environmental concerns. “We’ve got to build ... and we’re doing so in a way that is responsible.”

Mulroney also emphasized that the province initiated the new environmental assessment and updated it with more than one dozen environmental studies.

“Our government is committed to ensuring the health of Lake Simcoe,” she said, highlighting an announcement she made last week in Bradford to help reduce phosphorus in Lake Simcoe. “We are absolutely committed to ensuring we take the necessary environmental steps, and that includes when we deliver the Bradford Bypass.”

When asked if the traffic modelling used to justify the bypass would be released publicly, Sarkaria didn’t answer directly, but suggested the need was evident.

“This is unprecedented growth, and we need to make sure that we keep pace with that growth” he said. “Our data and modelling suggests that we will be at capacity on all of our highways by 2031.”

According to the province, the project’s construction is expected to support as many as 2,200 jobs annually and contribute as much as $286 million to Ontario’s GDP.

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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