The Vanishing Eglinton Right-of-Way

Serious policy geeks like me spend our time delving into the more arcane reports on various agendas.  This can be tedious work, but every so often, something interesting turns up.

On the May 2, 2011, agenda for the Government Management Committee, there is an item regarding the transfer of various city properties to Build Toronto, the agency charged with making money off of surplus City lands.

Among the properties to be transferred are three strips of land along the north side of Eglinton Avenue:

  • West of Widdicombe Hill Blvd
  • East of Widdicombe Hill to Kipling
  • East from Kipling to Wincott Drive

These lands form part of the original reserve for the Richview Expressway for which plans were abandoned decades ago.  A strip of land will be kept along the south edge of these properties for road widening should an Eglinton LRT project (or similar work needing more road space) ever proceed.

Disposal of this land by the City effectively blocks any scheme for using the expressway lands for a transit line either on the surface on in a ditch.

Another block of land to be transferred lies on the northeast corner of Don Mills and Eglinton.  The report notes that this is the planned location for a bus terminal connecting with the Eglinton LRT line at Don Mills, and this would certainly be a good place for an integrated development.

Elsewhere in the list of surplus properties, one can see remnants of the Scarborough transportation corridor and the Front Street extension.  It is ironic that an administration so bent on auto transportation is giving up lands that once might have been part of an extensive highway network.

Transfer of Properties Report

Appendices including detailed property descriptions

13 thoughts on “The Vanishing Eglinton Right-of-Way

  1. My first reaction was to look at a map to see if the bike-hating Ford brothers are trying to end plans to close the notorious gap along Eglinton between Jane Street and Bowie. This is the totally bizarre and quite frankly stupid gap between the quite excellent Richview Bicycle path that goes all the way along Eglinton from the 427 to Jane Street and the first class Beltway bicycle path which starts at Eglinton and Bowie (two blocks west of Caledonia).

    This leaves a three km gap of nothingness between those two quite excellent transportation facilities. What a stupidity!

    There seems to be plenty of room to fill in the gap with equally high quality Dutch-style cycle paths. For part of that way Eglinton inexplicable expands from four to six car traffic lanes. That bit could be changed overnight by simply putting up signs and concrete barriers to keep the cars out. And intersection protections that look like this.

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  2. On a slightly related note; Any idea what the current status of the land at Yonge and Eglinton (the old TTC bus bay) is? Does the city still own this or was it sold. There was a very detailed plan for this site (and the surrounding area) conducted years ago I believe.

    Steve: The City still owns this land. Although a proposal call was out for redevelopment, this has been put on hold as the site will be used as a staging area for the construction of the new LRT station on the Eglinton line. Once that’s done, the site can be redeveloped.

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  3. This is short sightedness on an epic scale. It’s already difficult to put in transit improvements because of runaway development. These runaway developments leave no available land to build transit infrastructure. The City looks like it will be continuing this trend by selling its “surplus” land.

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  4. Kevin, thanks for posting that video link to the Dutch intersection design. It’s such a simple and amazing idea to improve traffic flow and safety for everyone who uses the road.

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  5. That’s not good. There are many places in Toronto to add a condo or several condos, but very few continous strips of land that can be used as transit corridors.

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  6. The sad thing is that the Richview Expressway lands are probably the only place in Toronto where Rob Ford’s “subway dream” might actually work. This is due to the low cost of construction due to the ability to do a large amount of trenching with large amount of undeveloped land along the route.

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  7. Selling the Richview Expressway lands will help to bring down the city’s debt, if I follow one of the Ford brothers’ ideas. However, doing so may cause a conflict with their idea of the war on the car being over by taking away any future of an expressway along the route.

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  8. Is there any way to learn who directed these transfers and if they are actually intended to be malicious to transit?

    Steve: There is an ongoing program to transfer surplus City land to Build Toronto for marketing. Given that a strip has been reserved for road widening for future transit, I can’t see this as an “anti-transit” move, just a bit short-sighted. I also suspect there is a desire to prove that there’s money available to the City from sale of surplus lands, although the list of developable lands seems a lot shorter in practice than in theory.

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  9. Presumably this means that any extension of the Eglinton Line will have to be tunneled since Rob Ford would never allow surface LRT anywhere. Any low cost grade separated trench option is hereby ruled out. Assuming that the extra cost of tunneling in this section versus a trench is higher than the value of this land for development, this is not a good idea.

    Sort of reminds me of the decision to put various buildings (the Air Canada Centre, Telus building etc.) south of Union Station thereby precluding any significant expansion of the number of platforms at Union Station, meaning that Union Station’s capacity is permanently limited without a wildly expensive tunneling scheme.

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  10. Richard,

    You are very welcome. This intersection design requires zero extra space and is a very cheap human safety improvement. A bit of paint and concrete is far less expensive than human life.

    The bizarre transportation priorities and lack of planning in Toronto are truly crazy-making. The three km gap along Eglinton between the Richview bike path and the Beltline bike path is an excellent example of mindless stupidity.

    What would we say if the government built the 401 all the way across Ontario except for a gap between Pickering and Port Hope where they built nothing? And if politicians were to refuse to complete that gap, saying “nobody is using the 401 on either side of the gap, so why should we fill it in?”

    Crazy, crazy, crazy. There is an opportunity to have an excellent transportation facility along Eglinton at a cost so low that it is virtually insignificant compared to the benefit conveyed in moving people around Toronto. And yet our politicians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Guess they are too busy blowing away billions of dollars on harmful car infrastructure and overbuilt subways.

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  11. Not to worry about how various levels of government have allowed the Union Station Rail Corridor to become constrained permanently. Metrolinx has come up with two possible solutions to that. We can either dig a new GO rail tunnel under an east-west street somewhere between Queen and Front or we can build a whole new terminal complex underneath the existing one. To quote Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, “And I kid you not.”

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  12. Steve: Given that a strip has been reserved for road widening for future transit, I can’t see this as an “anti-transit” move, just a bit short-sighted. I also suspect there is a desire to prove that there’s money available to the City from sale of surplus lands, although the list of developable lands seems a lot shorter in practice than in theory.

    I don’t think it is an anti-transit move, but it certainly can be called an anti-expressway and anti-subway move. It’s not as if they can build an expressway from Wincott west to the 401…

    And getting rid of those segments means that there is no opportunity to run a subway in a trench north of Eglinton – which is the only way that a subway would be able to run along Eglinton through Etobicoke (as there is no way that the Province is going to pay for a tunneled subway).

    Selling the segments of land is another supporting example for my point-of-view that the Province is quietly working to ensure that Eglinton is to be LRT.

    Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

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  13. Here’s a response I got from Councillor Mihevc’s office:

    “Thank you for your message.

    The proposal to transfer these two pieces of land to Build Toronto is meant to take place after the construction of the Eglinton LRT through this stretch of Eglinton. These parking lots are important staging grounds for the construction and will help minimize the construction impact on traffic (please note that the Eglinton LRT line will be built and will be underground (negating your concerns about the aboveground line).

    With that said, Councillor Mihevc plans to move a motion ensuring that any transfer of these properties will not happen until after the Eglinton LRT line is completed.

    I hope this information helps put your concerns to rest.

    Best regards,
    Graham Wright
    EA to Councillor Mihevc”

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