Residents spooked by LRT work

A recent report predicting the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will be finished up to three years later than the 2020 scheduled by Metrolinx may have drawn the Toronto headlines, but local residents appear more concerned over traffic woes caused by the line’s construction.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” said Patrick Smyth, president of the Avenue Road Eglinton Community Association.

Residents don’t have a clear sense of what’s being done to address the foreseen traffic, cycling and pedestrian disruptions on Eglinton Avenue.

“There will be 15,000 to 20,000 more people coming to our area…. There has to be more accommodations for the congestion and how these stations are going to interact with the neighbourhoods,” said Smyth.

Construction could reduce the quality of life in affected areas, he said.

Terry Mills, planner for the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations, said streets parallel to Eglinton might be turned into detour routes for two to three years.

Congestion also has the potential of crippling businesses in the vicinity, he said.

“Do you tell everyone in Toronto don’t go anywhere near Eglinton?” Mills asked. “In which case, all the merchants are going to go, ‘Hold it, we’re in enough trouble already, we don’t want to discourage people coming into our shops.’ ”

But Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency heading the $8.4 billion province-subsidized expansion, says it has a few solutions up its sleeve.

It will create an elevated pathway by laying deck beams over construction sites to maintain traffic in one lane in each direction, Metrolinx vice president Jack Collins said.

“When we get the deck beams in, the work in the station can actually occur below, so the traffic is not disrupted much,” Collins said.

To further mitigate traffic issues, they will stagger construction instead of building the 10 stations simultaneously along Eglinton, Collins added.

“We will skip stations sometimes, so [we’re] not building in two stations immediately adjacent each other,” he said.

Despite these precautions, inevitable situations requiring adjustments to the current plan may arise, said John Parker, councillor and TTC commissioner.

“We’re not dealing with a vacant lot where the builder has complete control of the environment of the project,” Parker said. “This is a project that’s going to be executed on a living breathing organism … so there will be many variables that are encountered by this project that aren’t ordinarily contemplated by typical projects.”

Though tunneling of the partially underground railway is delayed until fall, Collins stood by Metrolinx’s 2020 deadline.

“Metrolinx is committed to moving forward with an aggressive schedule on these projects,” he said.

Mills said that while comprehensive planning is essential, so is patience.

“This is going to be a major project and it might take longer than expected but I imagine the benefits will be worth it.”