In July 2016, the City of Toronto approved its preferred alignment for Phase I of the Relief Line (RL) project, also known as the Downtown Relief Line (DRL). While the alignment was generally well received, there was one particular segment of it through Leslieville that caught the attention of local residents.

In the approved alignment, the entire North-South alignment from Eastern Avenue to Danforth Avenue would travel under Pape Avenue. From Gerrard Street East to Danforth Avenue this is not a significant issue, as Pape has a right-of-way width of 20.1 metres, a roadway width of 12.2 m, and is classified as a minor arterial. However, south of Gerrard, Pape is classified as a local road with a right-of-way width of only 18.3 m and a roadway width of 7.4 m. It was this section of Pape, from Gerrard to Queen Street East, that Leslieville residents asked the City to take another look at.

2016 Approved Alignment (Red) & Proposed Alternative Alignment (Blue), image courtesy of the City of Toronto

The neighbourhood residents' primary concerns were that Pape south of Gerrard was unsuitable as a subway tunnel route due to the narrow right-of-way and the built form of the street. With a right-of-way width of only 18.3 m, there were concerns that the subway tunnels would be closer to the foundations of the late 19th/early 20th century single detached homes that line the street. The residents pointed out that Carlaw Avenue, a mere 180 m to the west, had a right-of-way width and a built form much more suited to a subway corridor. The City initially attempted to mitigate the vibration concerns by pointing out that the Relief Line tunnels would be significantly deeper than Bloor-Danforth Subway's cut-and-cover tunnels, or even the Sheppard Subway tunnels. Ultimately though, the City agreed to evaluate the Carlaw route south of Gerrard.

Comparison of the depths of the Bloor-Danforth, Sheppard, and Relief Line tunnels, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

The City had two primary concerns with the Carlaw alignment. The first is the presence of a 1.8 m combined sewer underneath Carlaw south of Gerrard. The City has determined that if the Relief Line were to be constructed under Carlaw, that this sewer would need to be relocated prior to or as part of Relief Line construction, increasing project costs. The second was the S-curve that would be required at Gerrard in order to have the subway switch from a Carlaw to a Pape alignment. There were concerns that this would result in a tricky track geometry situation. Such an alignment would also require the future Gerrard Station to be built on an angle compared to the street grid.

On April 5, 2017, the City held a public information session for Riverdale residents, outlining a new preferred alignment for this section of the Relief Line. Somewhat expectedly, the City had now confirmed that the Carlaw-Pape alignment was now the preferred alignment for the Relief Line. Their analysis concluded that this new alignment provides the "best opportunities for transit network connectivity with SmartTrack and surface transit", and that it is "most compatible with preserving integrity of existing neighbourhood". They also concluded that a "station at Queen-Carlaw would invite a high level of activity that would support the emerging higher density, mixed-use Carlaw and Dundas area".

New recommended Relief Line alignment, to be approved in May, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

This new recommended alignment is scheduled to go before the Executive Committee on May 16th, and then before City Council on May 24th. Should the new alignment be approved, it will be integrated into the Relief Line Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) document, due to be complete in Fall 2017.

We will keep you up-to-date on the Relief Line as new details emerge. In the meantime, you can join the discussion about the Relief Line in our associated forum thread, or in the comments section below.