This is the second article in a series of transit project updates. See also:
Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider reports updating the status of various projects at its meeting of June 8, 2022 including:
- Advancing City Priority Transit Expansion Projects – Eglinton East Light Rail Transit and Waterfront East Light Rail Transit
The section of this report covering the Waterfront projects is a tad on the threadbare side compared to previous iterations such as the presentation almost a year ago. With luck there will be more detail in presentation materials at the meeting.
The report text implies that there have been design changes but does not go into details. One might hope for additional information when staff presents the report.
At the eastern end, the Waterfront line is projected to end on Cherry somewhere on Villiers Island. It is not clear whether the southern terminus of the WELRT on Cherry will be north or south of the new river. Some reports and drawings talk of the line going south of Villiers Island to the ship channel, but the current report talks of a new loop within Villiers Island itself (i.e. north of the new river). Note that the map above includes an arrow showing a potential extension south over the new river as well as east on Commissioners.
Wherever the new loop is, it will replace the existing Distillery Loop which conflicts with the new alignment for the streetcar tracks and underpass at the GO corridor. The old Cherry Street signal tower, a remnant of the days when the rail corridor was operated with manual switchgear, will be shifted east from its current location south of Distillery Loop to accommodate the new tracks.
For those unfamiliar with the area, Cherry Street will have three water crossings. From north to south on the map above:
- At the Keating Channel, a pair of new bridges (one for road traffic, one for LRT) are located west of the existing Cherry Street crossing. The LRT bridge is in place, and the road bridge immediately to the west will soon follow.
- The new outlet of the Don River is under construction, but still dry. If the WELRT goes south to the ship channel, there will have to be an LRT span here just as at the Keating Channel. The road bridge is in place waiting for New Cherry Street to be completed to connect with it.
- At the Ship Channel, Cherry Street will veer east back to its current alignment and use the existing bascule bridge. There is no intention for the LRT line to cross this channel.
A two-span bridge takes Commissioners Street over the future Don River (outside of the map above). Today, there is only a road span in place, high and dry over the new riverbed. When and if the Broadview streetcar extension to Commissioners is built along with an east-west link from Cherry to Broadview (and maybe beyond to Leslie Barns), then a transit bridge will be added.
The new alignment for Cherry Street is now under construction.
The currently projected cost for the WELRT is over $2-billion 2021$. Various design options for both the underground and surface portion of the line are under review, but there are few details of this work in the report.
A value engineering exercise is underway by the TTC which includes consideration of scope refinements, such as a refined 4-platform solution at Union Station and some improvements to the Ferry Terminal Station at Queens Quay. [p. 14]
Queens Quay East
There are still plans to fill part of the Yonge Street slip, and the report mentions a future park east of the skip. However, it is silent on the scheme to reorient the entrance of the Harbour Castle hotel to face east toward the slip.
Parliament Slip will also be partly filled and this will allow the WELRT to continue straight east on the new alignment of Queens Quay to reach New Cherry Street. This is intended to become a major destination in the eastern harbour.
Construction Phasing and Co-ordination
The WELRT be built in an area that already is a major construction site for projects including the Ontario Line, the GO corridor expansion, and the realignment of the Gardiner/DVP connection.
Still outstanding is the question of building and opening the new streetcar route across Queens Quay first so that it can operate independently of the Bay Street tunnel and the planned extended closure for reconstruction at Union and Queens Quay Stations.
The Next Round
A Stakeholders’ meeting is planned for June 20, and these usually precede a wider public consultation round. There are many questions to be answered about just which options are now on the table.
The next major report by the project will be to the new Council in the second quarter of 2023 as part of a wider review of Waterfront revitalization. By that time, design work will be at the 30% level for whatever option staff will recommend.
One obvious challenge for this and many other projects is that funding to build them is not in place, and they will compete with other priorities for attention.