The Province of Ontario and Metrolinx will close Etobicoke North GO Station when they replace it with a new station just west of Highway 27 on Woodbine Racetrack property, the government announced today. Ontario says it's partnering with Woodbine Entertainment to build the new station "at no cost to taxpayers". According to Global News, under the plan, Woodbine "would pay for the entire cost of building the station, estimated at between $75 and $90 million."
Ontario Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek, along with Kinga Surma, MPP for Etobicoke Centre and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation, and Phil Verster, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx visited Woodbine Racetrack to deliver the news about the new station. Jim Lawson, Woodbine's president and CEO and Michael Ford, the local City of Toronto councillor, joined them at the announcement event.
"Our government is putting Ontario's transit users and taxpayers first by delivering a modern GO station at Woodbine," said Minister Yurek. "We are moving quickly to address transit needs and get relief to people who rely on the GO network."
However, plans for the new station predate the current provincial government. Metrolinx had already been reviewing the need for a Woodbine station in 2016. It also identified a need to replace Etobicoke North Station and began looking at alternatives at least as early as January 2018. Its project to widen the Kitchener rail corridor includes a new tunnel for GO Transit and Union Pearson Express trains under Highways 401 and 409. The tunnel, in turn, requires major alterations to the current platform at Etobicoke North, requiring the provincial transit agency to close the station.
Although Metrolinx proposes the new station in an area without potential for high-density residential development within a short walk, the site lies at the southeast corner of the massive Woodbine lands. Woodbine plans to redevelop much of the site, mostly to the north and west, to bring "new jobs, housing and entertainment opportunities to the area around the station."
In its initial business case (.pdf), Metrolinx considered not building any station to replace Etobicoke North. That, however, required its 620 daily commuters to journey to Malton GO station–six kilometres to the west—or Weston GO station, four kilometres to the east to board GO trains. (Seventy-one percent of current commuters at Etobicoke North travel by car to the station.)
On the other hand, a new station at Highway 27 / Woodbine would not only serve many of those daily commuters but also would generate ridership from those travelling to nearby major destinations, including the racetrack, Woodbine Centre mall, Humber College's North campus, the University of Guelph at Humber and the Etobicoke General Hospital site of William Osler Health Services.
Moreover, it has the potential to act as another stop for UP Express trains and a link to the previous government's proposal for a high-speed rail line between Toronto and London. Plans for a major transit terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport include the Finch West light rail transit line. Extending that line to Pearson could also provide a connection to the new GO station at Highway 27 / Woodbine.
"A new GO station at Woodbine will offer opportunities to live and work near a major employer and entertainment destination, as well as better access to the local community and jobs in this employment mega zone," Verster said. "This is a wonderful announcement for our customers. We look forward to working with Woodbine Entertainment on this exciting venture."
"This is an exciting day for Woodbine Entertainment and the entire community," Woodbine's Lawson said. "Bringing mass transit to the Woodbine property is a big part of a larger vision to develop and unlock the value of our land to create new revenue streams that will help grow and sustain the horse racing industry for decades, attract millions of visitors to our site annually, and serve the surrounding community. It will be a major commercial and employment hub that will include mixed-use residential, commercial space, sports and recreations facilities, parks and public space."
The new station will have 790 parking spots, a pick-up and drop-off lot with space for 45 vehicles, and a bus loop with enough space for four buses. TTC buses along the 927 Highway 27 express route and GO buses along the 38 Bolton / North York route would likely drop off or pick up passengers in the new station loop.
The partners have not announced a timeline for opening the new station.
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