Some residents unhappy with plan for LRT at west-end park
Tunnel will bisect park, cost too much: residents
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Bay Ward Coun. Mark Taylor said until shovels are in the ground, there’s time to find solutions for residents who don’t want to see an LRT flyover through the green space of Connaught Park.
While the route has been pretty much determined since a council decision in 2011, there's room for improvement, Taylor said.
Dave Sharpe, who has lived on Hanlon Avenue for 35 years and is now on the executive for the Queensway Terrace North Community Association, said there hasn’t been enough substantive community consultation on the idea.
He said simply putting the item on the community association’s meeting agenda isn’t enough – there should be more done to help people understand the complex geotechnical studies and environmental assessment process.
“Once people understand what’s happening, they’re against it,” he said, adding he’s personally visited 20 homes to get residents to sign a petition to ask the city to find a route that doesn’t bisect their park.
To show they were serious, a dozen or more hearty souls lined the roadway near the park during rush hour on Nov. 18 – during the city’s first heavy snowfall.
The park has been a site for the west Transitway extension since the 1990s. The first environmental assessment took four years to complete, due in part to public involvement.
In the end the study recommended an alignment for the Transitway connection by the OC Transpo bus yard, through Connaught Avenue and across National Capital Commission green space to connect to the southwest Transitway. Due to concerns of Connaught Avenue residents about the noise and pollution of the buses, the study recommended a tunnel under the residential area.
However, when the Transitway extension was brought forward for budget approval, the 2008 council balked at the expense of the tunnel: the Connaught route was originally estimated at $112 million. The tunnel would have increased the project to $138 million in 2008 dollars.
Chris Swail, director of O-Train planning, said there are no current cost estimates to go around Connaught Avenue.
“This option was explored back in 2008 and would have involved the expropriation of approximately two dozen homes on Roman Avenue; it was rejected by the city,” he wrote in an email.
Swail added the alignment through Connaught Park was approved through the 1996, West Transitway Extension – Woodroffe Avenue to Acres Road Environmental Assessment. At that time, a bus rapid transit corridor was contemplated that would see buses travel at-grade through the Pinecrest Creek Corridor until going under Connaught Avenue, through a tunnel, to then carry on farther westward to Bayshore along the north side of Highway 417.
The city owns three homes on Connaught Avenue since the time of the EA in order to facilitate the future implementation of this tunnel, Swail said.
This approved alignment is the same alignment that is being used for the city’s western LRT extension.
But Sharpe said this is not the only option. He said he would like to see the city seriously ask the province for a dedicated lane of the Highway 417 on the south side.
Sharpe says he hasn’t done the business case, but it seems counterintuitive for the city to promote LRT while expanding the highway.
In addition, Sharpe says there’s no net benefit to the community. He says he has to walk further, probably an extra five minutes to the new station than he does now.
“It takes about seven minutes to walk to the Queensway station,” Sharpe said.
But Taylor disagrees, saying the new station on Queensview Drive will be accessible from the right of Roman Avenue.
As for using the highway, Taylor says it’s unlikely.
“The (Ministry of Transportation) has said they need every spare inch,” he said, adding Highway 417 is locked in on both sides.
Taylor said he would continue to work with the community on alternatives.
“There’s always room for improvement; it’s not a done deal until there are shovels are in the ground,” he said.
Sharpe said the community will continue to try and push for improvements.
“We worry about traffic, the safety of kids and dogs that use the park,” he said.
This story originally appeared in Metroland Media.