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As Metrolinx prepares for the underground Eglinton light-rail line, Eglinton residents are concerned that the street itself will miss out on needed repairs and pedestrian facilities. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
As Metrolinx prepares for the underground Eglinton light-rail line, Eglinton residents are concerned that the street itself will miss out on needed repairs and pedestrian facilities. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

PUBLIC TRANSIT

Metrolinx seeks to calm anxieties over Eglinton LRT Add to ...

Eglinton's new light-rail line might be going underground, but some residents are concerned the street itself will be left behind.

Provincial transit agency Metrolinx opened a community office at Eglinton and Dufferin on Tuesday as part of an effort to keep midtown residents up to date on the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT. Digging for the light-rail line is scheduled to begin this summer.

It was originally planned to be a largely above-ground project, but this spring the province gave in to Mayor Rob Ford's desire for underground transit, agreeing to fund $8.2-billion for the Eglinton line. Because it will be mostly dug by a tunnel-boring machine, there'll be few disruptions on the ground. But at Tuesday's meeting, there was concern that the underground project would mean no revitalization for the midtown artery.

"The street is a mess," local business owner Arnold Rowe told The Globe. "We need improvement for pedestrian facilities … and the use of roadways." He asked the city and provincial representatives at the meeting - TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz, Ontario Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne, Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle and Ward 15 Councillor Josh Colle - if there were plans to work on the street itself as part of the project.

Mike Colle said that there no concrete plans, but that he hoped the launch of the rail line would mean the "reshaping, revitalizing, improving above ground - starting now."

But Mr. Rowe, who's also vice-chairman of the York-Eglinton BIA, was disappointed. He said the response from politicians on an Eglinton plan was "filled with generalities."

Michael Wheeler said he didn't think pedestrian and cyclist needs will be met by the project. "At this point it's not a concern [to the city and province] but our roads need to be addressed." He said they should be revamped in way that considers "getting pedestrians and cyclists to be a part of transportation."

Mike Colle told The Globe that having a community office for the LRT project will let residents stay informed while making them part of the process.

"It connects the neighbourhood residents and the storekeepers with the project so they're working together and not in isolation. … The thing is, it's not just about waiting for 2020 when [the rail line]is completed. It's about rebuilding the middle of Toronto now. We're pushing to get the work, the beautification, the proper building form, all of that happening now."

Having the office, Mr. Colle said, avoids "all the angst and frustration that occurs with all city projects."

At the announcement, he made note that this wasn't the first community office that had been set up for an Eglinton transit project. Digging began for a subway along Eglinton West in the 1990s, but was quickly cancelled. "It's been a bit of a hiatus," he said.

The community office will remain open for the duration of the rail line's construction, which is scheduled for 2020. Ms. Wynne told The Globe the cost of the running the centre is included as part of the overall $8.2-billion budget from Metrolinx.

The Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT will have up to 26 stations - the locations are yet to be all finalized - each about a kilometre apart. The new section will run from Black Creek Drive in the west end to Kennedy Station in the east; from there, it will replace the aging Scarborough RT line above ground.

While the excavation will be done largely underground by a large boring machine, there will be surface disruption when the rail line's stations begin construction in a few years.

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