Ontario puts brakes on GTA West Highway study

The province is pausing an environmental assessment of a controversial GTA highway that would connect Vaughan and Milton, likely by paving over parts of the greenbelt.

Environmental group applauds move, saying highway would destroy part of Greenbelt

The province's plan for a GTA West Highway would connect Vaughan and Milton. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

The province is pausing an environmental assessment of a controversial proposed GTA highway that would have connected Vaughan and Milton, likely by cutting through parts of the greenbelt.

The Ministry of Transportation announced it was suspending its environmental assessment work on the GTA West Highway — also known as Highway 413 — on Wednesday, but said it will review the project and provide an update in the spring.

In a statement, Transport Minister Steven Del Duca said he wants to make sure the province has the "right transportation network in place."

"With new emerging technologies and a steadfast commitment to protect our natural heritage in Ontario, including the Greenbelt, it is essential to have a forward looking plan when it comes to relieving congestion," he said.

The 800,000-hectare Greenbelt forms a ring of land north of the city where development is restricted. The intention was to protect areas such as the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine from rampant development.

The environmental assessment was set to determine the route for the highway.

The environmental activist Environmental Defence welcomed the news, saying in a statement that the province's plan of "investing in a redundant mega-highway over much needed transit is out of step with the Ontario government's commitment to tackle climate change."

The group said the proposed route would cut through farms, forests and rivers as well as nearly 2,000 acres of the Greenbelt.

Environmental Defence said if built, the highway would "encourage more car use, enable further sprawl and contribute to traffic congestion in the GTHA."

The government said the highway will help cut down on commuter times and provide another link to rapidly growing cities like Brampton.