York Urbanist

1 THE FOLLY OF 427

October 31st, 2011

terminus of 427 at Zenway, not a pretty sight

Where? North of Toronto west of Highway 50.

What? An as yet incomplete limited access highway, the planning of which determines the future land uses of the west part of the Region of York.  It also freezes thousands of acres of land and puts its use in limbo until an elongated planning process is complete.  Where a normal regional road is 20 to 30m wide, this corridor varies from 60 to 100m wide (at interchanges), equal to 75 hectares per kilometre.

Why? Let us first identify the lands in question as farm lands, estimating a yield (corn) of 7.800 tonnes per hectare. Farms feed cities.  When farms are located farther from cities, the cost of transportation increases. http://www.nationmaster.com/red/country/ca-canada/agr-agriculture&all=1 Consider that more than fifty percent of the highway is not pavement. In Europe, where land is at a premium, width of right-of-way is a consideration.  “The general philosophy for highway design and project development is to develop a transportation program and system that enhances community values and integrates roadways into communities and the environment.” http://international.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/geometric_design.pdf

And what of the highway post-conception. York Region has experienced the finality of highway corridors with 400, 404, and 407.  Politically, the future 427 will severe the southwest corner of the Region and make it more an integral part of Peel Region. The physical impassability of the right-of-way will create another Highway 400 moving real community development off the agenda. Environmentally, any wildlife crossings that existed or were possible will have been dashed. And what of pedestrianization and cycling?

How is this an Urban Place to Detest?

The province is about to replicate its follies of the past. With no regard to melding the highway into the urban fabric, the highway is being designed in isolation within the powerful block called MTO. The public are made aware of the progress, but they daren’t express objections.  Three years ago, traffic pressure at the terminus of 427 was released at Highway 7 and placed on the Zenway. The EA is complete on the most recent extension to Major Mackenzie Drive.  Until now, Major Mackenzie has been a rural route with no municipal services. Former farms are obliterated and a way of life changes for many.  No firm decision is yet to come down on the future past Major Mackenzie. However, the Liberals have reconsidered the merits of extensions to Highway 9 through conservation lands and rethought the corridor. The latest thinking is that it now exits York Region near Major Mackenzie and connects Guelph to York Region.

What could be the future?

A progressive design approach would be to look at the rural space through which 427 will pass and imagine an urban space with people and environment integrated in a community serviced by the highway.  The EA report does not address a generous crossing for the future of the City.  The lands have been frozen and will be limited to uses compliant to the noise generated by 427 and by the impassability of the future.  An open-minded vision is required, a quality of which appears to be lacking in provincial government.

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