During a recent on-line public consultation meeting, Metrolinx revealed more details of its plans for the three westernmost stations on the future Ontario Line in central Toronto. The Ontario Line is a future rapid-transit service, extending above and below ground between Exhibition Place and Eglinton Avenue East at Don Mills Road. The line is one of four priority transit projects in Toronto that the Government of Ontario announced in April, 2019.
The details include the sites for exit/entrance structures and property that Metrolinx may have acquire to build the new line. It’s likely that it will demolish all or most of the buildings on the properties it acquires. However, Metrolinx says it would attempt to conserve heritage aspects of the structures “where possible”. It points to the BMO bank branch and subway-station entrance on the northeast corner of Queen Street East and Yonge Street as an example of how it could maintain heritage structures while also offering access into and out of underground transit stations.
At Exhibition, Metrolinx proposes building a new station on the north side of the GO Transit tracks, beside Exhibition GO Station. Ontario Line trains will emerge from a tunnel through a portal that is entirely within the current GO right-of-way, instead of further east near Strachan Avenue, as Metrolinx originally proposed. To accommodate the Ontario Line station, the transit agency will realign two westbound GO tracks slightly to the north. Westbound GO train passengers and eastbound Ontario Line passengers will share the same platform structure. Metrolinx plans to demolish the current westbound GO platform and build a new one east of the Ontario Line platform.
Earlier this month, Metrolinx announced that it was inviting qualified companies to submit bids on a contract to construct “early works” for the Exhibition Station project, to “help make sure major upgrades needed at the station can be done quickly and safely while keeping existing GO customers moving.” This work, which is not part of the main project for south civil engineering, stations and tunnel and north civil engineering, stations and tunnel construction contracts, includes:
- building a new station entrance and exit building north of the rail corridor that will serve both Ontario Line and GO passengers;
- removing the north platform to allow for a new Ontario Line platform north of the rail corridor in future works;
- building a temporary pedestrian bridge over the tracks to give passenger more ways to access GO platforms;
- opening an unused station entrance building and portion of the passenger tunnel to allow for station access until the new entrance opens;
- modernizing the elevators in the station;
- temporarily shifting the GO platform to the east to allow for continued access to GO services during construction of the south civil engineering, stations and tunnel contract; and
- shifting two GO tracks to make room for a new GO centre platform to support “GO Expansion” (formerly “regional express rail”) plans.
The transit agency has identified four properties in the Liberty Village area that it needs to acquire for the new Ontario Line station:
- #153 Dufferin Street;
- #7 Fraser Avenue;
- #s 2 / 20 Atlantic Avenue; and
- #1 Atlantic Avenue.
Metrolinx says that the new station is within a ten-minute walk for 12,100 residents and 17,000. It claims that the station will help relieve pressure on Union Station because large numbers of passengers will be able to transfer between GO and Ontario Line trains at the station.
As we reported earlier, Metrolinx redesigned the alignment for the Ontario Line so that a station would straddle the intersection of Bathurst Street with King Street West diagonally. It proposed the new alignment, in part, to avoid having to demolish The Wheat Sheaf Tavern – probably Toronto’s oldest bar – on the southwest corner. However, it now proposes entrances on the north- and southeast corners of the intersection, where several heritage structures sit.
Metrolinx proposes acquiring three properties for the King / Bathurst station:
- #663 King Street West;
- #668 King Street West;
- #662 King Street West.
The transit agency says the future station is “within a comfortable 10-minute walk” for 27,000 residents and more than 24,000 jobs.
At Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue, Metrolinx proposes station entrance / exit structures on the southwest and northwest corners. The southwest corner contains a fairly recent branch of the TD bank, but the northeast corner includes several heritage buildings, including a spectacular CIBC bank branch.
Metrolinx needs four properties for this station:
- #165 Spadina Avenue;
- #443 Queen Street West;
- #s 453, 451 and 449 Queen Street West; and
- #455 Queen Street West.
According to the transit agency, this station would serve as many as 22,800 residents and more than 42,000 jobs – although as transit commentator Steve Munro points out, some of these residents and jobs may also be within walking distance of King /Bathurst station.
Metrolinx says, “We know how important the heritage properties are in this area and we’re committed to retention of buildings or heritage attributes where possible. We included an initial survey of known and potential heritage properties along the Ontario Line route in the Cultural Heritage Report, part of the Existing Conditions Report published in November, 2020.”
The agency states that it is working within the framework of the Ontario Heritage Act and the Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties with heritage conservation specialists, including the City of Toronto Heritage Planning office “to identify the best solutions... [explore] a range of conservation options for heritage properties and [customize] approaches for each site. It explains that options include retaining façades while contractors are building stations and carefully dismantling exteriors into panels which it can store and then reassemble as part of the stations. Metrolinx staff will recommend solutions as part of the heritage detailed design report, which they plan to issue in draft for review and comment in early 2022 as part of the environmental impact assessment report. The Ontario government requires municipalities or transit agencies to complete an environmental impact assessment report as part of the transit project assessment process.
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