Eglinton LRT plan calls for $150 million in streetscaping
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Residents seldom heap praise on city hall. But there were plenty of kudos this week for the city’s plans to beautify Eglinton Ave. after the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT opens in 2020, including construction of what would be Toronto’s longest bike lanes.
Because the existing bus lanes will no longer be needed, city planners and transportation staff are recommending that road space be redistributed among buffered sidewalk-height bike lanes, wider sidewalks and more greenery on the 11-kilometre stretch between Black Creek Dr. and Brentcliffe Rd. That’s where the LRT will run in a tunnel under the road.
“This will be the longest bike lane in Toronto. A chance to redesign a whole street doesn’t come around very often. This is Toronto’s chance to get it right,” North Toronto Collegiate Institute student Matthew Gerry told council’s public works committee on Wednesday.
A report on the vastly revitalized streetscape was quickly approved.
One of the few concerns from members of the public who came to speak to the politicians was the $150 million that will be needed in a decade to realize the lively vision rendered in artist’s drawings.
“We’re addressing the need for funding but it all looks very seat-of-the-pants. Let’s get serious about finding funding sources,” said Councillor John Parker, a member of the works committee.
Metrolinx, which is building the Crosstown with $5.3 billion in provincial funding, has committed about $100 million to rebuilding the street to the city’s standards around the LRT stations. The new street design will be incorporated into the reconstruction of the road once the stations are built, said John Mende, director of transportation infrastructure management.
The $150 million in city money won’t be needed until a couple of years after the LRT opens. That’s when the city will fill in the mid-block sections between the stations with larger tree plantings, wider sidewalks, more street furniture and parking lay-bys.
“All of Eglinton is essentially going to be a construction site so we can’t go in to do work that overlaps with Metrolinx contractors,” Mende said. “That’s why we have to wait until Metrolinx is finished and gone before we can start the mid-block section.”
Most of the 11-kilometre tunnelled section of Eglinton will maintain four lanes of car traffic and curbside parking in the off-peak hours. The stretch that will go down to three car lanes is the least congested central area between Avenue Rd. and Mount Pleasant Rd.
Mende admitted that even he had to convince himself “that narrowing that section would work from a traffic operations perspective.”
“I envisioned Yonge and Eglinton to be very busy. I thought the volumes reflected that. But they don’t. The congestion in that area is because of the conflicts, the turning movements, of all the pedestrian traffic . . . not the volume of traffic,” he said, admitting the data is counterintuitive.
Traffic volumes are much higher where Eglinton connects with the Don Valley Parkway, Allen Rd., Black Creek Dr. and Leslie St.
City traffic counts showed 3,188 cars at Yonge and Eglinton in the morning and afternoon rush, compared with 8,125 at Allen Rd.
The plan goes to council this spring. If it’s approved, an environmental assessment would go to the province for approval.
Metrolinx is also giving the city $60 million toward public realm improvements, money that will go to enhancements beyond the bare city standards. That will be split among all the light rail projects the province is funding, including Eglinton, Sheppard Ave. E. and Finch West. About $1.5 million will go toward building larger tree pits for plantings on Eglinton, said Mende.
Most trips on Eglinton are more than 4 kilometres and more than half are by car. But 21 per cent of Eglinton trips are under 2 kilometres making them ripe for conversion to active transportation modes with cycling and walking amenities.