Rapid transit on Eglinton accepted with open arms

[attach]4241[/attach]A few days past, a public meeting was held to outline the latest incarnation of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Present were six Toronto city councillors, myself included, as well as minister of transportation Kathleen Wynne, TTC staff and officials from Metrolinx.

The meeting offered an opportunity for residents to learn about the most recent plans, followed by a forum for questions and discussion.

The meeting was attended by a near-capacity crowd of residents drawn from across the entire Eglinton Avenue corridor. Overall, the tone in the room was positive — rapid mass transit on Eglinton Avenue was seen as a good thing for residents of the area and for the city as a whole. In particular, starting work on the eleven-kilometre tunnel between Black Creek and Laird Drive was seen by all as essential.

It is clear that the Eglinton Avenue LRT is the highest priority transit line for Metrolinx and the City of Toronto. All of the groundwork for the original underground section of the Eglinton line has been done, including an environmental assessment. Tunnel boring machines have been paid for and construction will begin in 2012 on the originally planned underground section. Digging will begin in the west-end at Black Creek Drive and in the east-end at Laird Drive, with regular TTC bus service along Eglinton continuing as normal for the next few years.

We all delight in the province’s commitment to get shovels in the ground for Phase One as soon as possible. The Phase Two part of the plan that was seen as problematic was Mayor Ford’s proposal to underground the eight-kilometer stretch between Laird Drive and Kennedy Subway Station. The cost for this undergrounding is an additional $2 billion.

My hope is that council will take the time to re-evaluate the idea of undergrounding and come forward with wiser proposals as to how to invest the $2 billion. Given that work will not begin for several years, we have the time for a good community and council debate on when and where it is appropriate to underground public transit.

This massive amount of money is being taken from the Sheppard and Finch LRT projects. From a financial point of view, and from a transit perspective, the mayor’s proposal needs to be re-thought.