A recent Metrolinx blog post extols the virtues of the Ontario Line and the advantages of staying out of underground alignments.
Well, I thought, maybe they are further along in the design and can actually answer some questions about details that have troubled me, among others, for months. I wrote them an email on May 14:
In your recent blog post “The upside of Ontario Line’s upside – How Metrolinx experts are looking to design a Toronto subway that isn’t just confined to dark tunnels” you talk about an elevated alignment on the northern portion of the line through Thorncliffe/Flemingdon, but you state:
“In Leslieville and the Don Lands, the line will run at-grade alongside the existing GO rail corridor, helping to reduce construction impacts.”
One of the issues about this portion of the line has been the question of whether the new trackage would run at the same level as the GO trains, or above them on an elevated structure. This is particularly tricky for the proposed station at Queen Street that requires not just room for the tracks but also for platforms and vertical access to the street below.
Assuming you are still planning to straddle the GO corridor with OL tracks for across-the-platform transfers at East Harbour, this means that there will have to be flyovers/unders where the lines diverge south of Gerrard Station and at the curve north at Corktown.
Here are my questions (some of this is a holdover from the consultation round back when we could still have hundreds of people in a room together):
1. Please confirm whether the OL trackage will be at the same elevation as the GO trackage in the segment between the Don River/East Harbour and the point where the lines diverge at Gerrard Station.
2. How do you plan to handle the need for the eastbound OL track to cross the GO tracks at Gerrard and at Corktown, assuming that you are still planning to have the OL straddle the GO right-of-way? Will the OL eastbound go over or under the GO trackage?
3. How will you handle the station at Queen Street where space is required for platforms and access structures, not just the new OL rails, plus (possibly) one more mainline rail track?
4. Has the requirement for trackage for a possible high speed VIA service leaving Union via Lake Shore East and then the Stouffville corridor been factored into the track requirements yet, and if so, what is the effect?
5. Are there conflicts between a possible GO/Smart Track station at Gerrard and the planned OL structures/station?
6. Has the issue of lateral separation between mainline rail operations and the “lighter” OL vehicles been sorted out? What is the minimum spacing allowed between the two types of service?
Today, May 19, I received the following reply from Nitish Bissonauth, a Media Relations & Issues Specialist at Metrolinx:
We have nothing else to provide at this point in time as the project details are still being finalized and the preliminary design business case has yet to be released.
Remember, this is the same Metrolinx that originally expected to have a request for expressions of interest on the street already and a request for proposals in the fall. But they cannot, or rather refuse to answer basic questions that should have been settled long ago. This process has been delayed both by covid-19 and by the reticence of the construction industry to take on the level of risk Metrolinx so fervently wishes to push off of its books.
How people are supposed to intelligently comment with any hope of actual “participation” in the design process is beyond me. This is an organization devoid of any sense of public responsibility answering only to their bosses at Queen’s Park. Fearless Leader doesn’t want surface transit in his Etobicoke bailiwick, but it’s just fine for the folks elsewhere.
It will be amusing to see the pretzel-shaped logic that will appear in the “preliminary design business case” and whether, indeed, it bothers to address the technical challenges of the proposed route. Or will we simply get a line drawn on a map without regard to the local terrain and geography, much like a consultant now working for Metrolinx once did for SmartTrack?