Building a subway on part of Sheppard Avenue may not be completely off the table despite council’s endorsement of light rail.
At the March 22 vote that determined light rail for Don Mills Road to Morningside Avenue, councillors asked city staff to investigate previous studies conducted on a western subway link between Downsview and Sheppard-Yonge subway stations. The request, packaged in a motion crafted by councillor James Pasternak, also asked staff to report back on the possibility of a future Sheppard Subway West study.
Pasternak says he made the request in the absence of any recommendation for transit on Sheppard west of Yonge Street.
“To my chagrin, the advisory panel ignored it completely,” he said.
The York Centre rep has been a vocal advocate for what he’s dubbed the North York Relief Line, calling it the most vital link in the city.
Pasternak said a lack of response to his inquiry about any previous environmental assessments for a Sheppard West subway corridor spurred his request.
According to the TTC, no such studies were ever conducted on the Sheppard West corridor, despite its inclusion in several historical planning documents referenced in the Sheppard subway development report former councillor Gordon Chong presented in late January.
A subway extension to Downsview was not included in the 1992 environmental assessment that paved the way for construction of the current Sheppard subway line.
Chong has stated a western subway link, including stops at Senlac, Bathurst and Wilson Heights could be built today for $1 billion.
Pasternak says formal planning for the western link is urgently needed to relieve the greater pressure that a Spadina extension, once complete, will bring to the subway system.
Ideally, construction would be scheduled to begin in 2015, following the completion of the subway extension from Downsview Station to Highway 7.
Pasternak reasons that without a follow-up project, provincial transit agency Metrolinx and the TTC run the risk of mothballing work crews and equipment.
“You could wait five, 10 years before you get that whole infrastructure back up and going again,” he said. “The planning for that line took 10 years.”
TTC chair Karen Stintz isn’t shrugging it off, but says the link isn’t at the top of her priority list. She said a downtown relief line, another transit project idea that’s been bandied about for decades, would be a more significant pressure reliever on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. But she’s open to hearing staff recommendations on a new study.
“It would need to be ranked against the other identified priorities,” Stintz said.
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