Current Ontario premier Doug Ford once labelled a proposed light-rail public transit line proof of the “war on the car.”
Whatever your view of autos vs. public transit, or whether the car is king, motorists and commuters are assuredly thrilled to know that construction has started on the 401 expansion project in Mississauga.
And could the much studied and dreamed of Hwy. 413 (or GTA West) be coming to Mississauga next?
The current 401 work, 0riginally announced in 2017 (and then re-announced earlier this year), is worth $640 million. It involves the widening of 18 kilometres of Hwy. 401 to Milton from Mississauga.
Work is forecast to be done by 2022.
The project, which includes the reconstruction of bridges and upgrades to support facilities, widens the highway from the Credit River in Mississauga to Regional Road 25 in Milton.
Approximately 250,000 vehicles use Highway 401 in the Peel and Halton regions every day, according to the province.
And the number of commuters will likely increase in the years ahead. Mississauga and Brampton both enjoy what recent data released by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) called “sizzling” housing markets that are hampered by a continual lack of housing inventory.
Up to 50 new condo towers are estimated to be built in Mississauga over the next 10 years. In addition, numerous housing developments, such as Lakeview Village, are planned for the waterfront and the Hurontario LRT is already having a significant impact on housing and commercial development plans.
And a recent housing market report released by ReMax says Mississauga will continue to be an attractive spot for homebuyers. Easy access to Toronto’s downtown core along major roadways (and GO Transit) will continue to have an impact on the housing market, the report says.
As for the redesigned part of the 401, other features will include:
- A 12-lane core-collector system from Credit River to Winston Churchill Boulevard.
- 10 lanes from the Winston Churchill Boulevard to the Highway 407 ETR/Highway 401 interchange.
- A 12 lane core-collector system from Highway 407 ETR/ Highway 401 interchange to James Snow Parkway.
- 10 lanes from James Snow Parkway to RR 25.
- Median High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.
- New or improved support facilities and features, such as drainage, lighting, signage and carpool lots.
Expanding highways, some transportation critics argue, does not automatically lead to reduced traffic or congestion due to a phenomenon known as induced demand.
That idea of induced demand, as reported by the CBC, proposes that creating more and bigger highways encourages more people to drive cars, thus cancelling the benefits of increased capacity.
The 401 project is being helmed by Infrastructure Ontario’s design, build and finance Public-Private Partnership model. That operating model transfers risks associated with design, construction and financing of the project to the private sector.
And so, could that other 400 highway – GTA West – be coming sooner, rather than later, to Mississauga and Brampton?
A Globe and Mail story from Nov. 3 reported that this past June, “Brampton West MPP Amarjot Sandhu brought a motion (easily passed) to the Ontario Legislature, asking that the long discussed GTA West planning process be restarted.
Also known as Hwy. 413, the plan involves building a roughly 50-kilometre stretch of major new highway to the west of Toronto. The former provincial Liberal government suspended and eventually killed the planning process.
The Progressive Conservatives who won the 2018 election quickly revived the necessary environmental assessment.
The proposed Hwy. 413 route was released in September and a number of public meetings were held. GTA West would link Highway 401 with the 410 and 400.
“The population is increasing rapidly … and we definitely need [this] highway to reduce the congestion,” said Sandhu. He believes his constituents are clamouring for the project.
He has dismissed the idea that a new highway would simply attract more drivers.
The Globe also reported that Brampton Councillor Michael Palleschi also believes the project is very popular with his constituents. In June, that city’s council backed his motion supporting the process, but he conceded he has mixed feelings.
“Am I a believer that we need another 400-series highway in the west end [of the Greater Toronto Area]? I don’t know,” Palleschi said, noting that he’s a father with young children who wants to see a future with more transit, cycling and walking, one in which people have less need to drive.
Recently, the Progressive Conservative government raised speed limits to 110 kilometres per hour on three sections 400-series highways.