Updated April 7, 2022 at 9:45 am: Metrolinx has responded to a query about possible errors and inconsistencies in the EA. See the Errata section at the end of this article.
The Draft Environmental Assessment for the Ontario Line was published on February 7, and it is a very, very long read. In addition to the main report, there are appendices dealing with Natural Environment, Heritage, Archaeology, Socio-Economics and Land Use, Air Quality, Noise and Vibration, and Transportation and Traffic.
In this article, I will primarily review the alignment drawings provided in the EA and some of the information about station form and construction, to the extent that Metrolinx has provided this.
Notable by their absence from these documents are drawings of the actual structures above or below ground. This makes it almost impossible to assess, for example, the on street presence of the elevated structure between the north end of the Leaside Bridge and Science Centre Station, nor of new station buildings wherever the line is above ground. Underground structures, essential to an understanding of how the stations will connect to neighbouring buildings and to other transit lines, are also not shown.
I wrote to Metrolinx asking about this, and they initially referred me to the Neighbourhood Updates segment of their engagement website. There is less information there, in most cases, than in the EA or other already-public presentations (which could be out of date). I wrote again, and they replied:
Hi Steve – those additional images will be posted as soon as they are available.
We know folks are anxious to see those images and we are working to get that information available.
It is baffling how people are supposed to assess information in the EA if they cannot see what Metrolinx proposes to build.
On a similar note, there is a general problem along the line in that significant incursions on green space have yet to be detailed, and by the time the plans are actually published, it will be impossible to adjust the design. Metrolinx misled communities giving the impression that tree inventories and replacement plans would be available during the consultation period, but it is now clear that this was never going to be the case.
For additional background, please see my recent article An Ontario Line Tour and the associated webinar.
In future articles I will turn in more detail to issues such as Natural Environment, Noise & Vibration and the effects on buildings and structures along the route.
Exhibition Station and Fort York
Exhibition Station lies north of the Gardiner Expressway, and is a substantial expansion of the existing GO Station. It will include a concourse level over the tracks (illustrations are in the Tour), and the platforms will be configured so that there is full interchange between four GO Lakeshore West tracks and the two Ontario Line tracks.
There are crossovers east and west of the station platform and tail tracks extending west to Dufferin Street. These provide both for train storage and potential future extension.
Not shown in this drawing are revisions to the streetcar loop now used by 511 Bathurst and 509 Harbourfront streetcars which is immediately south of the GO corridor. There are plans underway, now in the design stage, to extend streetcar trackage west to Dufferin Street. Work on this project is “on hold pending evaluation of Ontario Line impact” [TTC Transit Network Expansion Update, February 10, 2022, at p 7].
If the streetcar stop at Exhibition becomes a “line” station rather than a terminal, arrangements for separate westbound and eastbound platforms, not to mention provisions for crossing live tracks, will have to be made here. The City and TTC have not released any interim plans that show their thinking on a new Exhibition Loop/Station for streetcars.
The EA makes reference to a future link between Exhibition Station and Ontario Place. This would be the subject of an addendum to the EA.
The Last Mile Connection – the Last Mile Connection is the physical area between Exhibition Station and Ontario Place. The goal in this area is to improve the connection between the Ontario Line/ GO Corridor and Ontario Place. Improvements in connectivity will include improvements to pedestrian pathways or the installation of alternative transportation methods including but not limited to such measures as autonomous vehicles, a transit guideway, and/or a gondola. Metrolinx is working closely with the City of Toronto and the Exhibition Place board of governors to explore options for improvements along this corridor. The Last Mile Connection will be assessed via a future addendum to the EIAR.Draft EA p 59
East of Exhibition Station, the line will drop into a tunnel. The green lines in the drawing below show the retaining walls around the ramp.
The portal lies west of Strachan Avenue. Emergency exits (pink dots) will be provided at the portal and in the Ordnance Park between the merging Lake Shore and Weston rail corridors. Just west of Strachan, there will be a substation (red star) which is conveniently beside a Toronto Hydro substation just to the south.
The portal will also be the extraction site for the tunnel boring machines making their way west from Corktown Station across downtown.
The OL does not interfere with the Fort York lands which are on the south side of the rail corridor.
The Ontario Line tunnel runs northeasterly from the Exhibition passing under the intersection at King and Bathurst about 28m below grade.
Spadina to University
At Queen and Spadina, the tunnel is 30m underground. As at King/Bathurst it will be accessed through two entrances. The buildings on the southwest corner will be demolished, but the facade of the office building on the northeast corner will be preserved.
Osgoode Station is a much larger construction site and there will be a large staging area including the east lanes of University Avenue and the lawn west of Osgoode Hall. The western chunk of the treed park on the north side of Queen will disappear. The fence around the hall will be dismantled and preserved for later re-installation.
The South African War Memorial in the middle of University Avenue north of Queen will be disassembled and stored during the construction.
The station at Osgoode will be 34m underground and will include a link to the existing University Line station above. Construction will involve partial closure of portions of that station and occasional weekend shutdowns of subway service similar to what has been seen with the Crosstown connection at Eglinton.
No plan of the link between the stations has been published yet.
On the map below, the areas in yellow are affected by the reinstallation of streetcar track for the 501 Queen streetcar diversion. (For those who might wonder, the TTC has been silent on the future of the currently-suspended 502 Downtowner service whose western terminus was McCaul Loop west of University Avenue. My suspicion is that the consolidated 503 Kingston Road service on King Street will remain for the foreseeable future.)
Bay to Moss Park
The station at Queen and Yonge will lie deep under the existing Yonge Subway 35m below grade with a multilevel connection between them (see the Tour article for details). There will also be significant staging areas for material and equipment on either side of the cut-and-cover station construction:
The laydown and staging areas are proposed along Queen Street West between Bay Street and Victoria Street. Along the eastern side of Victoria Street and on James Street from Queen Street East to Albert Street.Draft EA, Table 3.4, p. 50
This description does not align with the project footprint where the laydown area is clearly on the west side of Victoria Street. It is unclear when the streetcar track on Victoria between Richmond and Dundas will be (a) rebuilt and (b) reactivated.
The EA states that:
The station entrance will be located on the northeast corner of Queen Street East and Yonge Street and will be incorporated into existing buildings.Draft EA, p. 52
However, the drawing below shows entrances west of Yonge on the north and south sides of Queen (the south side will be through the existing Hudson’s Bay building). There is already an entrance to Queen Station on the northeast corner.
There will be a crossover between the east end of the station box at Victoria and Bond Street. Metrolinx has not detailed how this will be built, but the block is occupied on the north by St. Michael’s Hospital and this is an area where the connection between eastbound and westbound tracks will have to be mined.
East of Church, the tunnel swings north and will pass under Moss Park. The station at that site is 35m undergound, and it will be built cut-and-cover. There will be some street occupancy on Queen east of Sherbourne for staging.
This station has only one exit building, and Metrolinx claims that their design meets fire code. How this will be achieved is not yet known because they have provided no plans showing how two separate exits will be provided from platform level to the surface.
East of Moss Park Station at Sherbourne, the line turns south along the east side of Berkeley Street to Corktown Station at King. The station box runs from the south side of King to just south of Front Street, and it will be 25m underground. The area between Front and The Esplanade/Mill Street will be the site of the tunnel boring launch and materials extraction during construction.
The main station entrance is at King and Berkeley, but there will be a second entrance at Front Street. It is unclear whether this will be a normal secondary entrance or only for emergency use. The map below shows it as a “Station” (blue), but text in the EA [p 52] calls it an “EEB” (Emergency Exit Building).
South and east of the station, the line turns under Distillery Lane along the north side of the rail corridor. According to the EA, this section of the line will be mined “from Corktown Station to the face of the Don Yard portal” [EA p 51]. The tunnel rises to the portal west of the river, but Metrolinx has not yet published a vertical profile showing exactly how this occurs and the tunnel’s relationship to other buildings.
West Don Lands
The drawing below shows the transition from the tunnel to the surface east of Cherry Street. The ramp and portal will be built within existing GO Transit property on the north side of the rail corridor. This will require the relocation of the leads to the Richmond Hill GO corridor in the Don Valley to provide space where the Ontario Line will emerge (green bars below) beside the Lake Shore East corridor before crossing the Don River on a new bridge.
Richmond Hill GO Corridor Realignment – The Richmond Hill GO Corridor realignment work will facilitate Ontario Line construction north of the Don Yard. During the diversion stage, a section of track will be shifted toward the Kingston subdivision direction to maintain the rail traffic, and both realignment and new track construction will be needed. At the final stage, track will be reconstructed on a different alignment, and a retaining wall will be built.Draft EA, p 59
Two emergency exits (pink dots) are shown. One is west of Cherry Street with its access point south of the rail corridor, and one is at the south end of Tannery Road. The latter exit is not mentioned in the text of the EA.
This view continues east from the portal through East Harbour station where there will be a new transit hub for GO, the Ontario Line and the future southern extension of streetcar service on Broadview Avenue.
The EA claims [p 53] that the station will allow cross-platform transfer between the Ontario Line and GO Transit services even though this refers to a now-abandoned version of the station.
There will be a new OL bridge and a replacement GO Transit bridge at Eastern Avenue with the entire corridor raised to provide a 5m clearance to the street below.
In Riverside, we come to a very contentious part of the project where local opposition to use of the rail corridor has been substantial, albeit without shifting Metrolinx’ position. From the project footprint shown below, much of the existing treed area along the corridor will be affected. As at other locations, no detailed tree inventory or replacement plan has been provided by Metrolinx yet.
The EA refers to a staging a laydown area at Riverside/Leslieville Station:
The laydown and staging areas are proposed adjacent to Riverside/Leslieville Station. These areas will be used for storage of construction equipment and materials required at the construction sites. Areas will be fenced for security and controlled access.Draft EA, p. 51
However the drawing shows no such area, and the community was assured during consultations that construction would be staged south along the rail corridor from property along Dickens Street (north of Dundas at the right end of this map). This should be clarified by Metrolinx.
The existing rail bridges at Queen, Dundas and Logan will be replaced, and the new OL infrastructure will be built to provide a 5m clearance under the corridor. Queen and De Grassi is a frequent location for problems with TTC overhead due either to streetcar dewirements or to high vehicles driving in the streetcar lanes.
At Gerrard, the Ontario Line splits from the rail corridor and swings north under Pape Avenue. The station itself will straddle Carlaw Avenue and Gerrard Street. The portal structure and launch area for the tunnel boring machines will be north of the rail corridor between Carlaw and Pape south of Langley Avenue (green on the map below).
At the southwest end of the station, the existing park on Gerrard Street as well as an adjacent property on First Avenue will be used for construction access and staging. However, the main areas for staging will be north of Dickens Street and east of Carlaw on the south and north sides of the rail corridor respectively.
A short section of the sewer under Pape connecting to Langley will be shifted west from Riverdale Avenue south to Langley to avoid conflict with the Ontario Line tunnel as it descends from the surface (blue line on the map below). This will pass under the east side of the schoolyard at Pape Avenue Public School, and the new sewer will be tunnelled.
There will be an emergency exit building on the northeast corner of Pape and Bain Avenue.
The existing rail bridges at this location will remain as they already provide sufficient clearance for the streets below.
Pape From Danforth to Cosburn
Several blocks south of Danforth, the tunnel will swing east and pass under the Danforth Subway. A large portion of the block west of Eaton Avenue and north to the existing bus loop will be taken for the construction site. The station will be built cut-and-cover, and the OL will be 30m underground. Some modifications will occur to the existing station, but these have not yet been detailed by Metrolinx.
An existing parking lot on the west side of Pape will also be used as a laydown/staging area.
As at other junctions, Metrolinx has not yet published drawings showing how the interchange will work
Heading north from the station, the tunnels first swing west under Pape Avenue and include a crossover south of Sammon Avenue. They then shift further west on the approach to Cosburn Station.
Cosburn Station will be built cut-and-cover on the west side of Pape between Gowan and Gamble Avenues about 25m underground. Some land west of the station, including part of Cosburn Avenue itself, will be used for laydown/staging.
Don Valley Crossing
At the north end of the Pape tunnel, the line emerges through a portal at Minton Place (which continues the line of Pape north after it swings over to the existing Leaside Bridge which is just out of frame at the bottom of this map). Four houses will be expropriated for the portal structure and there will be considerable work within the valley for construction of a new rapid transit bridge. The piers of that bridge are shown in green below.
There is an emergency exit at the portal (pink dot).
A sanitary sewer (blue line) will be shifted to be clear of a bridge pier just north (to the right in this map) of the DVP. As the project footprint shows, Ontario Line work will affect a considerable portion of the valley. (Details of this are probably like so much of the plan, something to be revealed/decided during detailed design long after the EA is approved.)
Temporary construction access roads and staging areas will be constructed to facilitate the construction of piers and other elements of the substructure of the Don Valley Crossing Bridge across the Don River valley, as well as a temporary bridge across the Don River, a crane assembly area and other staging areas to facilitate the construction of the superstructure of the Don Valley Crossing Bridge. The temporary bridge is required to facilitate construction activities while erecting the Don Valley Crossing Bridge.Draft EA, p 55
The new OL bridge crosses the existing Hydro line (dotted black below) twice, and it is not clear of existing lines. Hydro will relocate its plant to the west of the proposed OL bridge.
The proposed Don Valley Crossing Bridge of the Ontario Line, crossing over the Lower Don Parklands, crosses a Hydro One transmission line for which the clearance requirements are not met. To mitigate this conflict with the existing overhead transmission line, Hydro One will remove existing structures and associated components of a portion of the transmission line south of Millwood Road and install new structures northwest of the proposed Don Valley Crossing Bridge of Ontario Line.Draft EA, p 58
After crossing Millwood Road at the north end of the Leaside Bridge, the Ontario Line runs on an elevated structure along the north side of Overlea to Thorncliffe Park Station. Note how the pier spacing widens as the line travels east to accommodate the wider track spacing for a centre platform at the station.
Metrolinx has not published any diagrams showing how close the structure will be to existing buildings on the north side of Overlea, notably 20 Overlea (the site of a new Mosque and community centre) just west of the station.
There will be laydown areas at Thorncliffe Park Station, but their description does not make sense. It is not clear exactly where these would be.
The laydown and staging areas are proposed west of Overlea Boulevard on the north and south sides of Thorncliffe Park Drive.Draft EA, p 55
There is provision for a bus loop here although the number of routes it would serve would probably be small given the presence of other nearby stations notably Science Centre. This would, however, increase the catchment area of the station and alleviate some access problems due to boundaries like the railway. This is a station that with good bus service could draw from north of the rail corridor, and could also support considerable redevelopment. Oddly enough, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario focus on downtown stations and are silent on locations like Thorncliffe and neighbouring areas.
The large area in yellow in the two drawings below will house the Maintenance and Storage facility. Its odd shape is due to working around the major hydro corridor connecting to the switching station on Millwood Road.
The line will drop to grade south of Pat Moore Drive to go under the Hydro corridor and to connect with the MSF, also at grade. East of the MSF, the Ontario Line turns east and crosses Beth Nealson Drive which will be lowered to pass under the guideway which stays at grade until the West Don River crossing (right edge of the map below).
The Hydro corridor here must be adjusted to accommodate the Ontario Line. Note that this is the west end of the “Gatineau” corridor that links to nuclear power stations east of Toronto and it is a major entry point for electrical power for the city.
Walmsley Brook Crossing Bridge – The proposed Walmsley Brook Crossing Bridge of the Ontario Line, located in Thorncliffe Park on the southeast side of the existing Canadian Pacific Railway and west of Beth Nealson Drive, crosses existing and future transmission lines. The majority of the existing and future transmission lines do not meet the clearance requirements with the proposed Bridge and the OMSF structures near the crossing of the Ontario Line. To mitigate conflict, Hydro One will remove existing structures and associated components of a portion of the transmission line and install new structures east of the existing structure locations and east of the proposed Ontario Line. To ensure continued and reliable supply within the City of Toronto, Hydro One will also install permanent and/or temporary bypass transmission line structures north of the existing transmission lines.
West Don River Crossing Bridge – The proposed West Don River Crossing Bridge of the Ontario Line, east of Beth Nealson Drive, is in close proximity of the existing Hydro One transmission lines west of Don Mills Road and is located within the Hydro One transmission corridor intended for future transmission lines. To mitigate the conflict with future transmission lines, Hydro One will remove existing conflicting structures and install new structures east and west of Don Mills Road. To ensure continued and reliable supply within the City of Toronto, Hydro One will also install permanent and/or temporary bypass transmission line structures north of the existing transmission lines.
For those who are wondering, Walmsley Brook is a tributary of the Don River originating some distance northwest of this area. Most of it is underground, and it runs through, yes through, Leaside Station (Bayview) on the Crosstown Line in a large pipe.
Flemingdon Park to Science Centre
East of Beth Nealson (out of frame to the left), the line crosses the Don River (again) on a new bridge, and then turns north on the west side of Don Mills Road. The green dots show proposed locations of piers. This will be a side platform station.
As with the crossing further south, there will be work in the valley for construction of a new transit bridge.
Temporary construction access roads and staging areas will be constructed to facilitate the construction of piers and other elements of the substructure of the West Don River Crossing Bridge across the West Don River valley, as well as a temporary bridge across the West Don River and other staging areas to facilitate the construction of the superstructure of the West Don River Crossing Bridge. The temporary bridge is required to facilitate construction activities while erecting the West Don River Crossing Bridge.Draft EA, p 56
Flemingdon Park Station lies between Gateway Boulevard and St. Dennis Drive just south of the Science Centre building. The overhead structure crosses Don Mills to a terminal station above the existing Science Centre Station bus loop. There is provision for a tail track and future extension.
The laydown/staging area for Flemingdon Park Station will be on the west side of Don Mills. At Science Centre Station, land around the existing bus loop will be used.
A large amount of development is already in the works for this intersection, but there has been no discussion of station access. The two known points are on the southwest and northeast corners. Has anyone has though of underground links for the other corners, if only to avoid a lot of surface level pedestrian traffic? That’s the sort of thing that should be built concurrently with this project, not as an afterthought.
Like Flemingdon Park Station, this will be a side platform station even though it is a terminal. This implies that trains will reverse north of the station via a crossover (not shown).
I wrote to Metrolinx on February 10 with a list of questions about various issues in the EA document. They replied on April 6. The questions and responses are below. This has been lightly edited for format, and Metrolinx’ responses are italicised.
Thank you for the detailed review of the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) and for providing the comments below. The necessary updates were made to the EIAR text, and the Final EIAR report will be made available on April 8, 2022. We are writing to share our responses below:
Page 50: “The laydown and staging areas are proposed along Queen Street West between Bay Street and Victoria Street. Along the eastern side of Victoria Street and on James Street from Queen Street East to Albert Street.” The map for this segment clearly shows that the project footprint is on the west side of Victoria not the east. Which is correct?
The Project Footprint and Project Components figure is correct, the laydown and staging areas are located on the western side of Victoria St. The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised and the updated version of the report will be made available April 2022.
Page 52: “The station entrance will be located on the northeast corner of Queen Street East and Yonge Street and will be incorporated into existing buildings.” There is already a station entrance on the NE corner of Queen and Yonge. The map shows new entrances west of Yonge on both sides of Queen. Is the text on page 52 wrong?
The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised and the updated version of the report will be made available April 2022.
Also east of Queen Station there will be a crossover in the block in front of St. Michael’s Hospital, although this area is shown as tunnelled. Will the links between the tunnels for the crossover be mined to avoid the need for C&C construction at the hospital?
As stated in Table 3-4. OLS Section Key Component, the Queen Station Crossover will be excavated using Sequential Excavation Method.
Page 52: “The station entrance will be located on the east side of Berkeley Street at King Street East. The station platforms will be located approximately 25 metres underground. An EEB connected to the station will be located on the east side of Berkeley Street at Front Street.”
At Corktown station, the text describes the south entrance as an emergency exit, but the map shows it in blue indicating a regular (albeit secondary) entrance. Which is correct?
The Project Footprint and Project Components figure is correct, however this is a secondary exit only. The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised and the updated version of the report will be made available April 2022.
In the West Don Lands, the text speaks only of an emergency exit west of Cherry, but the map shows an additional EEB at the foot of Tannery Road. Is that EEB really in the plan given how close it would be to the one at Cherry?
The Project Footprint and Project Components figure is correct, a second emergency exit is proposed at the foot of Tannery Rd. The EEB at the foot of Tannery Road provides for emergency access to Ontario Line within the Don Yard for Toronto Fire Service, provides public emergency egress from Ontario Line trains and allows for the Project to be in compliance with the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 130), which requires that emergency exits be no more than 762m apart. The distance between the Cherry St EEB and East Harbour Station exceeded 762m. The text in the Draft EIAR will be updated to make this clear.
Page 53: The text claims that cross-platform transfers will be possible between GO and the Ontario Line at East Harbour. However, this was dropped with the redesign of the station to shift the Ontario Line to the north side of the corridor. Is this text a holdover from the earlier design in error?
Correct, this is an error in text. Transfer between Ontario Lines and GO Transit will be supported through a concourse. The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised.
Page 51: “The laydown and staging areas are proposed adjacent to Riverside/Leslieville Station.” However during community meetings, Metrolinx stated that all work would be done from within the corridor notably from the large staging area north of Dundas. The map does not show (via shading) any laydown/staging area at Riverside. Is this an error in the text?
Correct, this is an error in text. The Project Footprint and Project Components figure is correct. The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised and the updated version of the report will be made available April 2022.
Page 55: The text says: “The laydown and staging areas are proposed west of Overlea Boulevard on the north and south sides of Thorncliffe Park Drive.”. This does not make sense because Overlea runs east-west while Thorncliffe Park Drive is north-south. It also does not match with the footprint shown on the map. Is the text wrong?
The Project Footprint and Project Components figure is correct, staging/laydown areas are proposed on the north side of Overlea on both the east and west sides of Thorncliffe Park Drive. The text in the Draft EIAR will be revised and the final version of the report will be made available April 2022.
On the map of Science Centre Station, there is no end of line crossover shown. Given that this is a side platform station, I assume that the crossover will be north of the station and the terminal will run with separate northbound and southbound stations. I this correct?
The platforms at Science Centre will be located on the east and west sides of the elevated guideway. A crossover is planned for north of the Science Centre Station, the Draft EIAR will be revised and the updated version will be made available in April 2022.
Thank you again for your engagement in the environmental assessment process for the Ontario Line.
Caitlin Docherty (she/her)
Community Relations & Issues Advisor – Ontario Line