Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents: Quick Links
- What is the resumed GTA West Study and why is it still a good idea?
- Under what authority is MTO conducting this Environmental Assessment Study?
- What are the recommendations from Stage 1?
- Why is a highway-based solution needed – why can't we just expand transit initiatives and improve other modes of transportation?
- What is the relationship between this study and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and the Places to Grow Act?
- What is the study process and what are the key steps for Stage 2?
- What is Highway 413?
- What are some benefits of the GTA West transportation corridor?
- What has happened since the project was suspended in 2015?
- What was the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study?
- Why is my property now within a "focused analysis area" when it was outside of the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study?
- What is the new IESO electricity transmission study?
- What is the GGH Transportation Plan and how does it relate to the GTA West Study?
- What will the new corridor look like?
- What is the transitway component of the project?
- How will you attract trucks to the GTA West transportation corridor?
- When will stakeholders know where the new multimodal transportation corridor will go?
- How many years will it take for the preferred corridor to be constructed?
- What happens if my land is impacted? How will I be compensated?
- Will the GTA West transportation corridor be tolled?
- What is the cost of the GTA West transportation corridor?
- The Stage 2 Route Planning study area encompasses portions of the Greenbelt. Can the new transportation corridor go through the Greenbelt? How will MTO address the impact on the Greenbelt?
1. What is the resumed GTA West Study and why is it still a good idea?
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is undertaking Stage 2 of the Environmental Assessment (EA) Study for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor. Building on the recommendations from Stage 1, the EA Study will identify the route, determine interchange locations and complete the preliminary design for a new multimodal transportation corridor within the Route Planning Study Area. The new multimodal transportation corridor will include: a 400-series highway, transitway and potential goods movement priority features. The study continues to follow the GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference, which was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment on March 4, 2008.
The GTA West multimodal transportation corridor is vital transportation infrastructure that will help meet the projected growth in both population and employment identified in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and will deliver multiple benefits including:
- Greater connectivity between urban growth centres;
- Enhanced people and goods movement;
- Improved commuting; and,
- Greater economic vitality.
The Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) is an economic driver for the province and addressing transportation needs in the GGH is essential to the competitiveness of our economy. The need for the GTA West Study remains and is reinforced by the Greater Golden Horseshoe population and employment growth forecasts, which identifies more people and jobs by 2041. Building more transportation infrastructure would help alleviate traffic congestion and improve goods movement in the Greater Toronto Area. Protecting a multimodal transportation corridor supports growing communities – it is good practice to do long-range planning for areas under development pressure.
2. Under what authority is MTO conducting this Environmental Assessment Study?
The GTA West Transportation Corridor Route Planning and Environmental Assessment Study is being undertaken as an Individual EA in accordance with the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act and the GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference, which was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment on March 4, 2008.
3. What are the recommendations from Stage 1?
The Stage 1 Transportation Development Strategy was completed in November 2012. It recommended a multimodal strategy including:
- Optimizing the existing transportation network;
- Improving non-roadway transportation modes such as transit and rail;
- Widening of existing highways; and
- A new transportation corridor.
Further details on the specific recommendations of the Transportation Development Strategy developed during Stage 1 can be found in the Transportation Development Strategy Report (PDF 19 MB), which is available for download in the Background Materials section.
Even with optimizing the existing transportation network, widening existing highways, and the transit expansion projects identified by Metrolinx, additional road capacity is needed.
Stage 2 of this study focuses on the recommendation for a new transportation corridor extending from Highway 400 in the east to the Highway 401/407 ETR interchange area in the west, that includes a 400-series highway, transitway, and potential goods movement priority features.
4. Why is a highway-based solution needed - why can't we just expand transit initiatives and improve other modes of transportation?
Stage 1 of the Environmental Assessment (EA) focused on taking a broader look at the transportation needs in the western Greater Toronto Area (GTA). As part of this process, the Stage 1 Project Team identified a number of transportation problems and opportunities, and considered a range of potential multi-modal transportation solutions to address the problems and opportunities identified.
Our transportation forecasting was based on the assumption that all transit projects identified in Metrolinx’ Regional Transportation Plan The Big Move (2008) would be implemented. Even with these transit improvements, our transportation forecasting indicated that the highway component of the GTA West transportation corridor is needed to support the growth in population and employment that is coming to this region. As such, Stage 2 of this EA continues with a focus on identifying the route and developing the preliminary design for a new transportation corridor within the identified study area.
The process used during Stage 1 followed a two-stage approach that began with a comprehensive assessment of all of the individual modes of transportation alternatives, including transportation demand management, transportation systems management, transit, freight rail, inter-modal (i.e. transportation of freight in a container or vehicle using multiple modes of transportation like rail, ship, or truck without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes), air, marine, as well as roads and highways, to assess their ability to address the future transportation problems and opportunities. Several alternatives were developed for each individual mode of transportation, and these alternatives were subsequently combined into a broader multi-modal network alternative based on a “building block” approach.
The philosophy of this approach was premised on first including alternatives that would optimize the existing transportation network, followed by non-roadway infrastructure improvements (e.g. freight rail, transit, air, etc.), followed by expansion of the existing highway network. At each stage, the team stopped to assess whether the alternative was capable of fully addressing the transportation problems and opportunities. In this way, a new highway corridor was only considered after the potential for all other modes of transportation, and the expansion of the existing highway network were fully considered and accounted for.
Ultimately, the findings of this work indicated that while there were opportunities to optimize the existing transportation network, improve non-roadway modes of transportation and expand the existing highway network, a new highway corridor extending from Highway 400 in the Regional Municipality of York to the vicinity of the Highway 401/407 ETR interchange in the Regional Municipality of Halton was still required to address the future transportation demands. The need for the GTA West Study remains and is reinforced by the Greater Golden Horseshoe population and employment growth forecasts, reflecting more people and jobs by 2041.
5. What is the relationship between this study and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and the Places to Grow Act?
In 2019, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing released A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the Growth Plan). The Growth Plan outlines a set of policies for managing growth and development and guiding planning decisions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The Growth Plan was prepared and approved under the Places to Grow Act (2005), which requires that planning decisions made by the province, municipalities, and other authorities conform to the policies contained in the Growth Plan.
The GTA West Transportation Corridor is identified in the Growth Plan as a “Future Transportation Corridor”, and represents a strategic link between Urban Growth Centres in the west of the Greater Toronto Area. This study was initiated to further develop this transportation corridor.
6. What is the study process and what are the key steps for Stage 2?
The study is being undertaken as an Individual Environmental Assessment in accordance with the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act and the GTA West Corridor Terms of Reference (ToR), which was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment on March 4, 2008.
Consultation opportunities including Public Information Centres (PICs) and Community Workshops will be held throughout the study to allow interested stakeholders to comment on the alternatives that are generated, as well as the Project Team’s assessment and evaluation of the alternatives, the selection of the Technically Preferred Route, and the preliminary design.
7. What is Highway 413?
The GTA West Project Team is aware that some stakeholders are referring to the GTA West transportation corridor as Highway 413. The GTA West transportation corridor does not have an official name yet, and if stakeholders are reviewing reports, studies or maps that make reference to a Highway 413, they should be redirected to the GTA West project website for the most up-to-date and accurate information about this study.
8. What are some benefits of the GTA West transportation corridor?
The 2006 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe forecasted the population of the area to grow to 11.5 million by 2031. Without changes, by 2031 the average commuter times are expected to increase by 27 minutes a day. The updated 2017 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe forecasted the area to grow to 13.5 million people and 6.3 million jobs by 2041. Building more transportation infrastructure would help alleviate traffic congestion and improve goods movement in the Greater Toronto Area.
The GTA West transportation corridor will help to address the transportation problems and opportunities, resulting in other benefits for local and regional communities and economic development because it will:
- Help to accommodate future travel demand;
- Overall demand that will be served is over 300,000 auto vehicles trips/day in 2031
- Relieve traffic on local roads and parallel highways
- Provide a designated transitway as a multimodal alternative;
- Reduce travel times for commuters and goods;
- Provide greater connectivity between urban growth centres, with both transit and highway facilities;
- Provide better connections to residential and employment lands;
- Address the needs for goods movement in the west GTA and regions beyond;
- Help to accommodate ‘just in time’ delivery for goods movement (i.e. suppliers help in controlling inventory costs by reliably getting products to the customer just before the customer needs them);
- Provide greater economic vitality; and
- Provide an alternate route in the event of an incident or road closure on local and regional roads.
9. What has happened since the project was suspended in 2015?
- The GTA West Study was suspended.
- Prior to the study suspension, the GTA West Project Team had identified a Technically Preferred Route, but had not yet presented the route to the public.
- An independent Advisory Panel was asked to assess the GTA West Study in light of changes in government policies since 2008 and new transportation technologies.
- The Advisory Panel released their report. The Minister of Transportation announced that the province would not proceed with the GTA West Study.
- The Ministry of Transportation and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), with support from the Ministry of Energy, initiated a study called the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study to identify a protected corridor for future infrastructure needs (transportation and utilities)
- The government releases the 2018 Fall Economic Statement stating that Ontario is doing the work necessary to resume the GTA West Study.
- The GTA West Study was resumed.
- The GTA West Study will protect lands for a future multimodal transportation corridor (with the exception of utilities).
- With the GTA West Study resuming, the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study will be discontinued.
- The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Independent Electricity System Operator have initiated a new study to identify an adjacent electricity transmission corridor.
- The second round of Public Information Centres (PIC #2) were held to present the study process, draft Technically Preferred Route, draft 2019 Focused Analysis Area, and the application process to participate in the development of the Community Value Plans.
October 2019 – August 2020:
- The Project Team reviewed feedback from PIC #2 and worked diligently with advisory groups, municipal staff, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to confirm the Preferred Route and associated 2020 Focused Analysis Area for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor.
- The Preferred Route and 2020 Focused Analysis Area for the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor were confirmed.
10. What was the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study?
The Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study (NW GTA) was a joint planning study to identify lands for a multipurpose linear infrastructure corridor. This study aim was to identify a narrow corridor of lands that could be protected over the long-term for potential development of future linear infrastructure, as approved through applicable Environmental Assessments. With the resumption of the GTA West Study, the NW GTA Study will not be proceeding.
11. Why is my property now within a "focused analysis area" when it was outside of the Northwest GTA Corridor Identification Study?
The GTA West Study resumed from the point of suspension in December 2015 and is following the Individual Environmental Assessment process and GTA West Corridor Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference, which was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment on March 4, 2008. As a result, the Focused Analysis Area (FAA) from December 2015 was back in place for the short-term while the Project Team updated and completed the route evaluation. The 2019 FAA was presented at Public Information Centre #2 (PIC #2) and the 2020 FAA has now been refined based on feedback from PIC #2, land use, and environmental information. The 2020 FAA defines which properties continue to be within an area of interest as the study progresses. Properties located within the 2020 FAA could be directly impacted by the GTA West multimodal transportation corridor, ancillary uses, or if refinements are made to the Preferred Route during the preliminary design stage. The Project Team aims to further reduce the FAA when the preliminary design of the Preferred Route is presented at PIC #3.
12. What is the new IESO electricity transmission study?
With the resumption of the GTA West Study and the discontinuation of the NW GTA Corridor Identification Study, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines (ENDM) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) are initiating a new transmission corridor identification study, the “Northwest GTA Transmission Corridor Identification Study.”
The study’s objective is to identify an appropriate corridor of land adjacent to MTO’s future GTA West transportation corridor suitable for use by future electricity transmission infrastructure, if and when the need arises.
For more information on the Northwest GTA Transmission Corridor Identification Study, please visit: http://www.ieso.ca/Get-Involved/Regional-Planning/GTA-and-Central-Ontario/Northwest-GTA
13. What is the GGH Transportation Plan and how does it relate to the GTA West Study?
Over the next 22 years, the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) will grow to 13.5 million people. A functioning, efficient, and well-planned transportation system is vital to keep the population and economy of the GGH moving.
The Ministry of Transportation is working to develop an integrated multi-modal transportation plan for the GGH. The goal of this plan is to provide a long-term vision for transportation in the GGH (to 2051), and an integrated future multimodal transportation network for people and goods movement. The goal of the plan is to provide the best possible mobility options for people and businesses in the region. Once completed, the plan will guide provincial and Metrolinx transportation investments, provide guidance for municipalities, and a platform for partnership with the federal and private sector partners on transportation priorities in the region. The GGH Transportation Plan will include the GTA West transportation corridor.
14. What will the new corridor look like?
The new multimodal transportation corridor is anticipated to be a 4- to 6-lane highway (within a 110m right-of-way) with a separate adjacent transitway (within a 60m right-of-way). Transitway stations will be located at certain interchange areas.
15. What is the transitway component of the project?
The transitway will be developed as a separate designated right-of-way (roadway) for buses. Transitways allow for efficient bus transit systems (and potentially, in the future, light rail vehicles), so that certain bus routes can operate on express schedules without having to stop at crossing roads and signals, or mix with the general traffic on the highway lanes. Transitway stations will be located at certain interchange areas where transit riders can park or be dropped off. The area required for the transitway was considered in evaluating the routes for the new transportation corridor, but the details of the transitway will not be developed until a Preferred Route has been confirmed after PIC #2.
16. How will you attract trucks to the GTA West transportation corridor?
Stage 1 identified the need for improved goods movement (connections and reliability). The following goods movement priority features are being considered in Stage 2:
- Truck only lanes.
- Combined truck/transit lanes. Truck use of potential HOV lanes during off-peak hours.
- Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) features, such as variable message signs and real time traveler information.
- Longer speed change lanes.
- Enhanced design to accommodate Long Combination Vehicles.
- Truck only interchange ramps, where warranted by truck volumes.
- Truck parking facilities.
- Enforcement features (weigh and inspection stations), including automated weigh stations.
17. When will stakeholders know where the new multimodal transportation corridor will go?
The Preferred Route has been confirmed following the consideration of feedback from Public Information Centre #2, as well as land use and environmental information. While preliminary design of the corridor will still be required to identify specific property impacts, stakeholders should now have a good indication of where the new transportation corridor will be located at this time. At the third round of Public Information Centres, the Project Team will present the preliminary design of the Preferred Route, which will refine the associated property requirements.
18. How many years will it take for the preferred corridor to be constructed?
The study is currently in the planning and preliminary design phase, which represents an early stage of the overall process, and is expected to be completed in 2022. The planning and preliminary design phase will culminate in an Environmental Assessment (EA) Report, which will be made available for public review. It is anticipated that the Final EA Report will be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks by the end of 2022.
Following the review of the EA Report, and if EA approval is obtained, the corridor will be protected. There will be a future requirement for additional engineering tasks such as surveying, testing for soil conditions, determining construction material requirements, and developing the design details for the new highway, interchanges, bridges, etc. Currently there is no commitment to a timeline for additional design and construction. The timing and duration of highway construction depends on numerous factors, including size and complexity of the project, funding availability, procurement method and timing of environmental clearances and permits.
19. What happens if my land is impacted? How will I be compensated?
Once the Environmental Assessment (EA) approval is obtained and approval to acquire lands is obtained, MTO staff will contact impacted owners and request a meeting to begin negotiations to purchase the property requirement amicably. If no agreement is reached, the property may be acquired by expropriation in accordance with the Expropriations Act. At this time the EA process is on-going, and therefore property acquisition timelines are unknown.
20. Will the GTA West transportation corridor be tolled?
No decision has been made at this time. Tolling is an implementation issue that will likely be determined at a late stage of this study or subsequent studies.
21. What is the cost of the GTA West transportation corridor?
High-level construction costs were developed to support the evaluation of the shortlist of route alternatives. More specific cost estimates will be developed during the preliminary design stage of the project.
22. The Stage 2 Route Planning study area encompasses portions of the Greenbelt. Can the new transportation corridor go through the Greenbelt? How will MTO address the impact on the Greenbelt?
The Greenbelt Plan recognizes that infrastructure is important to economic well-being, human health and quality of life in southern Ontario and the Greenbelt and that new and/or expanded facilities will be needed in the future to serve the substantial growth projected for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
The Greenbelt Plan permits existing, expanded or new infrastructure in the Greenbelt provided that the infrastructure serves the significant growth and economic development expected in southern Ontario beyond the Greenbelt by providing for the appropriate infrastructure connections among urban centres and between these centres and Ontario’s borders.
A new corridor crossing of the Greenbelt cannot be avoided in some parts of the study area since Greenbelt designated lands run the entire width of the study area in locations such as the Humber River Valley and the Credit River Valley.
The Route Planning Study Area provided for a number of potential crossing opportunities at locations where key natural features cannot be avoided (i.e., major valleys and rivers) so that multiple crossing alternatives could be examined. Each alternative was assessed against a number of policy and environmental criteria in order to be consistent with the Greenbelt Plan. One of the key considerations in selecting a preferred alternative was minimizing impacts on the Greenbelt. This study is also being conducted within the framework of existing policy, including the Growth Plan and the planning initiatives of the various municipalities that comprise our study area.
The Project Team, in consultation with the Greenbelt Transportation Advisory Group (GTAG), drafted the Guideline for Planning and Design of the GTA West Corridor Through the Greenbelt during Stage 1 of the study. The Guideline identifies key planning and design principles and recommendations for mitigation measures for placing new or expanded provincial highways/transitways within areas of the Greenbelt, in the GTA West study area. Key elements include:
- Impact avoidance, where possible;
- Community sensitive design;
- Consideration of impacts to road ecology and wildlife;
- Consideration of impacts to agriculture;
- Stormwater management; and
- Flexibility with geometric and bridge design to reduce impacts.
The Guideline echo’s the Greenbelt Plans direction encouraging the use of green infrastructure and planning, design and construction practices. Recommendations from the Guideline are being considered and implemented during route planning and preliminary design of the GTA West transportation corridor where impacts to Greenbelt areas are unavoidable. The Guideline is available for download on the Reports Page.