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Re-think Allen Road closing, Metrolinx told

A view of southbound traffic on the Allen Road, just north of Eglinton Avenue.

DAVE CHAN/The Globe and Mail

A proposal to shut a northbound entrance to Allen Road for all 2014 may be revised after Metrolinx was urged to come up with an alternate plan.

The original request to close the entrance at Eglinton Avenue West was made by the provincial transportation agency so that it could erect a construction staging area for the Crosstown LRT line. The closure would have let Metrolinx trucks use the Allen to remove material extracted underground as part of the construction.

The proposal was originally expected to come before council's public works and infrastructure committee later this month, but city staff had discussions with Metrolinx recently about the closure. "We were concerned about the impact," said John Mende, director of transportation and infrastructure at the city's transportation services department.

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Both sides recognize that closing the entrance to the popular road would cause crippling congestion in the city's north end. The original proposal was to close northbound access at Eglinton for up to a full year because Metrolinx believed it would reduce the overall construction period by at least nine months. "We continued to look at alternatives to be as efficient as possible," said agency spokesman Jamie Robinson.

Metrolinx now believes it may be able to maintain access for motorists without increased costs or construction delays. It will report back to the city by the end of January.

The agency is assessing the feasibility of using smaller diameter tunnels at the Eglinton West station, explained Mr. Robinson. "That would allow our contractor to extend the soil conveyor and continue to use Black Creek Drive for handling disposal of material," he said.

The 80-metre-long tunnel-boring machines will have to be extracted from the ground and then "re-launched" on the other side of the Allen Road as part of the construction,he said. "There will still be significant disruption," on the busy stretch of Eglinton as a result of the LRT construction.

Traffic delays and disruptions for local businesses are inevitable as a result of the LRT construction, but the head of the Upper Village BIA, said he is "cautiously optimistic" the process will go more smoothly than what happened during the building of the streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue West. "We are hoping it will be more manageable," said Steven Petroff, whose association represents merchants just east of Allen Road.

He noted though, that there is uncertainty about the actual impact of the LRT construction. "A lot is still up in the air," said Mr. Petroff. A priority for his organization is what Mr. Petroff described as a "more active" shop-local campaign that would be funded by Metrolinx.

Shop-local campaigns are something that Metrolinx is working on with all the BIAs along the Eglinton LRT route, said Mr. Robinson. "We are putting that together now."

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At the same time as a decision must be made on what will happen to Allen Road in the short term, the city has begun a review that could lead to major changes to the road, including access for pedestrians and cyclists.

The terms of reference, for a possible environmental assessment of any proposed changes, is scheduled to be completed this spring. "This is a vital transportation artery," said Stephen Schijns, manager of infrastructure planning at transportation services."We are taking the opportunity to take a fresh look, as to how that corridor could look," he said.

The terms of reference, estimated to cost $250,000, "is not tied to the LRT other than coincidence of timing," said Mr. Schijns. "This is intended to be a long-range plan on the future of the Allen Road, looking decades out," he said.

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