Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario speeds transit by limiting environmental assessment reviews

Frustrations with the long delays involved in environmental reviews and a sense that transportation projects need t...

February 15, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Frustrations with the long delays involved in environmental reviews and a sense that transportation projects need to get rolling quickly have spurred Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario and his cabinet to take action.
The Ontario Cabinet approved a six-month time limit for environmental assessments on public transit projects. A new regulation was approved on Wednesday, February 6 and according to a Ministry of Environment it should be finalized by April. It will apply to all transit projects receiving provincial funding, sources told the newspaper.
Under its Move Ontario plan, the province has already approved 52 transit projects, including extensions to the Toronto subway system and a light rail line.
Whereas now, projects can take years to pass the environmental review process, the new regulation will limit the scope of public discussion to 85 days. After that, the environment minister has 35 days to decide whether the project should proceed.
As an example of the current deadlocks that hinder projects, it took two years to get a dedicated streetcar line along St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto passed through the environmental assessment stage due to opposition by local businesses. The newpaper reported on provincial official’s comment as: “An environmental assessment process beingused to hold up projects that are good for the environment iskind of ironic.”
The CBC reported a few days later that the Ontario Energy Association wants the same kind of bureaucratic streamlining to cut down on the environmental review process for power generation projects, arguing that the province is in dire need of new power generation.
The new regulation limiting environmental assessments on transit projects will be posted by the Ministry of Environment for comments before it becomes law on the Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca


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