As work continues on digging for a light rail line under Eglinton, plans for a grand streetscape up above, with extra space for cyclists and pedestrians, moved one step closer to fruition.
Toronto`s Public Works Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to seek an environmental assessment on the proposed design and also to ask Metrolinx, the agency overseeing the LRT construction, to incorporate the design into its plans.
The proposal still must be passed by city council, which meets next on May 6.
"Completing the environmental assessment is a very important component," committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong said after the meeting. "We've had all sorts of delays in moving transit forward and we need to get this approved so we can complete the work that we need to do."
The design guidelines relate to the portion of Eglinton which will have buried LRT – the 11 kilometres across the centre, from Black Creek Drive to Brentcliffe Road. They are based on the logic that reserved bus lanes will no longer be needed once the LRT is there, freeing up some space.
The recommended design for that stretch of Eglinton includes bicycle lanes that will be separated from the street by being raised and from pedestrians by trees or other physical barriers. There will also be "wide sidewalk zones," additional controlled crossings and reduced distances to cross. And there will be more space for large trees and street furniture.
The recommendation also stipulates that the existing number of parking spaces be preserved, and that there be a four-lane road with turn lanes at selected intersections.
If council approves the design guidelines and the EA proceeds, Metrolinx would incorporate the guidelines into the areas around the LRT stations. The city would do the corresponding work on the parts of Eglinton between stations.
Both parts of the final work cannot be done at once, though, according to John Mende, director of transportation infrastructure management in Toronto's Transportation Services department. "We can't go in with our city contractors to do work that overlaps with Metrolinx contractors – the Ministry of Labour doesn't allow that because of the conflict," he explained.
As a result, the city will do interim improvements to coincide with Metrolinx and then complete the full improvements to the road once the LRT is complete. That line is slated to open in 2020 and will be followed by the final work by the city, which is likely to add what Mr. Mende estimated as "a couple years."
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