Metrolinx has launched another round of consultation for various projects that make up the GO Transit Expansion Plan. Information on these is scattered through various pages on their site.
The consultation runs until December 11, 2020.
- Union Station Enhancements
- New Track and Facilities
- Scarborough Junction Grade Separation
- Stouffville Corridor Grade Separations
- Network-Wide Structures Project Addendum
- GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum
There is an interactive map of locations where changes are proposed, although it can be tedious to navigate because the default map does not have street names. (You can change this by selecting a different base map from the options in the upper right of the display.)
This map shows roughly the location of the Ontario Line corridor, but gives no detail about extra space, although the map is not to be taken as definitive. Nothing is shown of potential stations for the OL, and there is no information at all in the map for the several proposed SmartTrack stations.
This means that the scope of the project review and the combined effect GO Expansion will have with other projects is not known. Moreover, it would be foolish to approve a project based on a spec that did not include two major additions that are somewhere in the Metrolinx pipeline.
Stations, be they for the Ontario Line or for GO/SmartTrack require platforms and circulation elements (stairs, elevators, roads) but there is no hint of the space these will take.
Future GO Transit Propulsion Technology
Metrolinx often refers to electrification as a pre-requisite for the frequent service that they plan to operate. The network will have a mix of electric (whether locomotive-hauled or multiple units remains to be seen) and diesel-hauled trains. The diesels would be used on the outer portions of GO’s network that Metrolinx does not own and where relatively infrequent service does not justify the expense of electrification infrastructure.
Notwithstanding Ontario’s recent mutterings about hydrogen energy, that scheme has (thank goodness) disappeared from the Metrolinx lexicon. It is not an appropriate technology for the long train, frequent service plan that Metrolinx intends to operate.
Electrification requires infrastructure including the overhead contact system (OCS) along the rail corridors and power substations along the routes to convert electricity from Hydro’s distribution voltage to the level used by the trains.
The sequence of conversion is not yet settled, although the inner part of the Kitchener corridor is a likely first step so that the Union-Pearson Express could be electrified. Enough time has passed since any of this was discussed, and circumstances are far different today. The whole question of the staging and timing of electrification will depend on how fast Ontario wants to pay for it and how soon Metrolinx actually operates frequent electrified service.
The existing junction at Scarborough between the Lake Shore East and Stouffville corridors is woefully inadequate for the future service plans. The Stouffville line is accessed via a single track that curves north from the Lake Shore corridor, but frequent service will require double track. Operationally there will be a pair of tracks with the south/westbound service roughly on the current alignment and the east/northbound service on a new track. This triggers the need for a grade separation.
The existing grade crossing at Danforth Road will be replaced by an underpass.
Where Is SmartTrack?
The proposed SmartTrack service, first announced by then-candidate John Tory in the 2014 Mayoral race, would have several stations, but there is no sign of them on the map for the GO Expansion project.
Here is the map of SmartTrack stations and proposed service levels as presented to City Council in April 2018. Note that this is not the same as what Metrolinx plans to operate according to their expansion plan.
Detailed designs for SmartTrack stations were presented by Metrolinx and the City in 2018. They are covered in three articles:
Finch Avenue is a proposed SmartTrack station location. This is now a grade crossing, and although several grade separations are proposed along the Stouffville corridor, this is not one of them. Adding a station here, and then subsequently deciding that a grade separation is needed, would be an expensive afterthought. The Metrolinx plans give no indication of what might be involved.
However, the City’s design for a Finch Station shows a grade separation. This would be outside of the GO Expansion project’s scope, but it should be included for completeness.
The proposed station at Lawrence East is a very tight fit if the existing SRT station remains in place. Given the possible timing of projects and drifting completion date for a Scarborough Subway, this could be a challenging location. Note that no provision for this station appears on the map below.
Gerrard Station is particularly difficult. When it was designed, the Relief Line would have been underground and would have conflicted with anything added to the GO corridor. Now, however, the Ontario Line will be above grade in the GO corridor and will dive into tunnels where Gerrard SmartTrack station would have been. The Ontario Line station is proposed to be southwest of the proposed ST station.
The pink box around the rail corridor below is notional indication of the Ontario Line, but it is not a definitive map of its requirements, notably the station structure.
East Harbour and Leslieville
The station at East Harbour will support the planned development of the same name. As at Gerrard, when the SmartTrack layout was proposed, the Relief Line would have run outside of the rail corridor (under Eastern Avenue). Now, however, the Ontario Line is an integral part of the corridor.
The Ontario Line also has a proposed station at Queen Street (the misnamed “Leslieville” station which is actually in “Riverside”). There is no indication on the map of the space that will be required for either the expanded East Harbour Station nor for the Leslieville Station.
Considering that the work to build this portion of the Ontario Line is supposed to occur concurrently with the GO Expansion construction, this is a major shortcoming in the design as presented.
Finally, as the Ontario Line surfaces along the rail corridor near Parliament Street, it will potentially affect the Don Yard (outlined in orange below) but this is not shown in the plan.
Liberty Village Station
SmartTrack includes a station at Liberty Village on the rail corridor north of King Street. This is a tight area for a station, and it should not be added as an afterthought.
There is no indication of this station on the plans, nor of changes a joint GO-Ontario Line station will trigger at Exhibition Station.
St. Clair & Keele Station
Although there is a proposed ST station at St. Clair, no provision for it is shown on the plans.
Other Non-SmartTrack Stations
Although it is not part of SmartTrack per se, a station near Bloor and Lansdowne is supposed to be part of the Davenport Diamond project. It is not shown here because it is not part of the GO Expansion scope.
Park Lawn Station
A station has been proposed at Park Lawn on the Lake Shore West Corridor. Like the Bloor/Lansdowne station, it is out of scope of the GO Expansion.
The Don Branch Layover Facility
Metrolinx plans to convert its unused Don Branch (the former CPR connection between Leaside and Union stations) as storage for three trains. This would be located between the high level bridge over the DVP and the point where the Don Branch crosses from the east to the west side of the Don River near Rosedale Valley Road. This is intended as a light servicing location, and it would have a collection of buildings adjacent to the rail corridor just north of the Prince Edward Viaduct.
The effect of this project on an area in the valley that has undergone considerable regeneration is a matter of concern for local advocates of reclaiming the Don River Valley.
It is not clear whether the need for this storage facility is triggered by the loss of space at the Don Yard on the Lake Shore Corridor caused by the Ontario Line.
Full disclosure: I live in an apartment overlooking this site. This is what it looked like in October 2020. The existing rail has been overgrown with weeds and trees for three decades since the last VIA commuter train to Peterborough ran here in 1990.
The last train here ran in 2003 or 2004, according to a comment to this article by John Thompson, when the CPR ran a company train pulled by CP’s Hudson steam locomotive 2816 up to Leaside from Union Station.