Optimism Arises from Eglinton Crosstown LRT

It’s been more than three years since construction has started on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT – a project that has not been without setbacks.

Torontonians who have had their commutes altered and homes shaken from the tunnel-boring and street-level construction can be forgiven for feeling some resentment towards the project – a project that to the outsider can come off as disorganized and slow-moving. Yet, it is worth noting that the anguish Toronto communities and commuters alike are currently experiencing might soon subside, if just for a moment, upon hearing the news of an optimistic sign of progress.

Earlier in May, news broke that the two tunnel-boring machines (TBMs), fondly named Dennis and Lea, had reached Yonge Street, signaling the completion of the western portion of the dig – a distance of 6.4 kilometers from its starting point at Black Creek Drive. The final completion date for the project is set for 2021 which will include 25 stations and 19 kilometers of total track.

This milestone gives Torontonians a chance to envision the potential of what a completed crosstown LRT might bring to communities within the vicinity of Eglinton Avenue and the streetscape itself.

For a more in-depth look at what this future might look like, the Eglinton Connects Planning Study is worth checking out. Completed in 2014, Eglinton Connects was a two year study that included 60 public and stakeholder consultations, four surveys and had attendance of ~5,000 residents. The study sets out the potential for what Eglinton Avenue might one day grow into once the all-important Light Rail Transit line, or LRT, is built and functioning. Approved by city council in 2014, Eglinton Connects has put forward 21 recommendations and 3 main areas for growth regarding the avenue’s transportation, greening, and development style.

With the coming of the LRT and the subsequent removal of the bus-service, there will be ample opportunity to widen the variety of transit modes. A newly designed Eglinton Avenue would give more consideration towards pedestrians, cyclists, transit-users and motorists. Two recommendations that stand out for me are the commitments towards separated bike lanes and the widening of sidewalks to a maximum width of six meters capitalizing on the streets potential for pedestrianization.

The study also calls for Eglinton Avenue to “green” its streetscape. This would allow the street to act as a seamless connection to both the Humber and Don River Valleys. Greening recommendations include the development of a robust tree canopy alongside the relocation of hydro-infrastructure below-grade to better accommodate the growth of the canopy and also the implementation of more green transit infrastructure.

Plans for development along the avenue will focus on using as-of-right zoning permissions to encourage more of a receptive mid-rise style. The mid-rise scale will only be used in portions of the street where the development of 4-11 storey buildings are deemed to be appropriate. These areas will include six focus areas and two mobility hubs.

Even though completed in 2014, Eglinton Connects gives us a chance to look ahead to what the future holds for such an important east-west connection to our city, augmenting our excitement even more from the milestones reached by our hardworking friends Dennis and Lea at Yonge Street.

Let us know what you think about the latest construction developments and vision for the future of Eglinton Avenue.