Words and Photos by Jun Nogami (Originally posted on Biking in the Big City.)
This past Wednesday there was a public meeting about the possible extension of the West Toronto Railpath.
It was quite well attended, and there were representatives there from the City, Metrolinx and the architectural firm that is consulting on the project.
You can see the chairs for the slide presentation that was given twice during the evening, as well as the poster boards, and copies of the maps on tables that were laid out for public input.
I was pleased to see that the study included the feasibility of extending the railpath all the way to Wellington St, with a connection to the Fort York bike trail. The total study area was split into three sections (north, centre and south) each having slightly different issues to deal with.
The bold black line shows one proposed route through the northern section. It entails extending the existing railpath south underneath the Dundas St W bridge, at which point a bridge is necessary to cross the Barrie Go Line.
Here is the map laid out for public comment.
This is a closeup of the map for the northern section. Red circles meant "I do not want" and blue circles meant "yes, please." Clearly, passing under the Dundas bridge was the preferred option. Also, someone really wants to extend the proposed bridge so that it also crosses west across the Georgetown line, connecting the Railpath to Sorauren Park. Unfortunately, we were told that such a bridge is beyond the scope of the present study. Sounds like a lost opportunity to me as such a bridge would make the Railpath accessible to users from Roncesvalles. There were also comments directed towards Metrolinx scattered all over the map expressing the desire for electrification, as well as concern for the five meter high noise abatement walls.
In the central section, there is less scope for creativity. Along this section, the main issue is to make the best possible use of the land that Metrolinx has provided to the east of the rail line. Daniel Egan noted that sections of this route might be like walking or biking in a tunnel since the route is right up against one of those noise abatement walls, shown in yellow. One of the decisions that has to be made is how to cross Landsdown, Brock, Dufferin and Queen. There is no leeway for the railpath on existing bridges. Spearate bridges for the railpath would be the most expensive option. The route sketched out here uses bridges at Landsdowne and Brock, keeping the railpath right along the train. A more likely scenario at Queen and Dufferin is to have path use short sections of Peel St. and Gladstone Ave. and also take advantage of city lands that were acquired during the Dufferin Jog project.
The southernmost section is the most problematic as there are numerous issues with trying to route the path along the train tracks. At one point (99 Sudbury), a building leaves no room beside the rail right of way. The solution sketched here was to go along part of Sudbury and Douro streets with some sort of bike lane.
The railpath is also proposed to link up with Wellington at the end, which would put it in close proximity to connecting with the Richmond/Adelaide project, with the further possibility of a link south to the Fork York bike/pedestrian bridge.
A slide presentation indicated that construction might start as soon as 2015. It would not be possible to start earlier as that was the timeframe under which Metrolinx would be finished with the Pearson Rail Link construction before railpath construction would start.
There were several questions raised after the presentation. One important concern was the prospect of greatly increased bike traffic entering the northern section without any safety enhancements to the Dupont-Annette-Dundas intersection.
The public input will be considered and used to guide a more detailed proposal that will be released this September, at which time there will be another public meeting. After the meeting, there will be a 30 day comment period, although there was a request from a resident's group from Roncesvalles that the comment period be extended to 60 days.
Although all of this is subject to approval by the many stakeholders including the City, Metrolinx and some private landowners along the route, it is fantastic to see the development of a proposal so that the City would be ready to put shovels in the ground as soon as all these hurdles are cleared.
For more information, see the study's web page. Submit your comments to the City before July 12, 2013 with this comment sheet, or contact Maogosha Pyjor from the City's Public Consultation Unit for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.