Toronto - Ontario Minister of the Environment Laurel Broten has approved a new "Class" Environmental Assessment (EA) process for municipal transit projects that will help streamline the approval process for major transit infrastructure improvements in Toronto.

Prior to the approval of this new Transit Class EA process, certain transit projects, for example, those recently announced in the Toronto Transit City Light Rail Plan, were required to follow a more-comprehensive "Individual" EA process. That process required that, at the beginning of an EA study, a detailed Terms of Reference be developed, reviewed with the public, and then approved by the Minister of the Environment. In addition, the Individual EA process required the Ministry to review and approve the EA study once the EA study was completed. With the new Transit Class EA process, neither of these approvals is required, and this translates into an EA study being completed and approved up to one year faster than had previously been possible.

All of the public meetings required during the technical study are still in place to allow extensive public input.

In the fall of 2004, an advisory panel was appointed to assist in finding ways to improve Ontario's Environmental Assessment (EA) process in a number of areas, including municipal transit projects. The panel recommended that a simpler form of EA process - a "Class" EA process - be developed that provide a simpler EA process specific to municipal transit projects.

A sub-committee was formed to develop this new Transit Class EA, led by the Municipal Engineers Association (MEA), and including representatives of the Ontario Ministries of the Environment, Public Infrastructure Renewal, and Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Regions of York and Waterloo, the Cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, and the TTC. The sub-committee developed modifications to the current Municipal Class EA process that already governs three classes of municipal projects -- roads, water, and wastewater - adding a section specific to transit.