Ontario's plan to build Highway 413 has been nothing short of controversial, with many citing the negative environmental impacts building the highway will have. But because trying to understand just how much land would be affected is often abstract and difficult, urban planner Sean Galbraith decided to make a video showing the entire route of the planned Highway 413.
Over the course of three days last year, Galbraith used a drone to capture the highway's path in its entirety, revealing just how much farmland and greenbelt lands would be affected.
"I think the video was the first time a lot of people actually looked at what is on the ground along the route, versus just an abstract 'highway through farmland' concept -- which itself is garbage enough, mind you," Galbraith said. "The drone's eye view also gives a different perspective and a 'you're really there' kind of feel versus just looking at top-down aerial photographs that I think is really impactful."
Highway 413 has been in the works for years amid public criticism, but the Ford government has pushed forward with it, citing the project as a means to relieve gridlock and meet the needs of Ontario’s growing population. It was included as a key infrastructure project in the 2022 Ontario budget, but no specifics on costs were provided.
Plans for Highway 413 call for it to span 59 km from Highway 400 in Vaughan to the intersection of Highways 407 and 401 at the Brampton/Mississauga border, also connecting along the way to Highways 427 and 410. By 2031, the four- to six-lane highway is expected to service more than 300,000 commutes each day, the provincial plan says, while cutting commute times by up to 30 minutes. Some experts have disagreed with this estimate, saying that congestion will continue to persist as the number of cars continues to grow.
Galbraith agrees with the naysayers, calling the project an "environmental disaster."
"Editing the footage really drove home, so to speak, how unnecessary this project is," Galbraith said. "We do not need yet another highway blasting through agricultural and greenbelt lands just to save a few drivers a few seconds. I was particularly interested in the portion that included the Credit River crossing. You have to be a complete idiot to want to drive a highway through that."
The Ford government's focus on highways extends beyond Highway 413, with highway building and expansions dominating the 2022 budget. Other party leaders have spoken out against this, with Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca promising to cancel Highway 413 if elected. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at the time of the budget's release that “it’s clearer than ever that Doug Ford will keep choosing his buddies over the rest of us, and people will keep paying the price.” And Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner dubbed the fiscal plan as a “1950s-era Sprawl Budget.”
“We’re in a climate emergency and a cost of living crisis,” Schreiner said following the budget's release in April. “But Doug Ford wants to pump a staggering $25B into more highways and sprawl that will pollute the air, make life even more expensive, pave over the farmland that feeds us and destroy the nature that protects us from flooding. The fact the cover of the budget is literally a picture of a highway tells you all you need to know about Doug Ford’s anti-climate, pro-sprawl agenda.”