West Toronto Railpath Extension Study: Sudbury Street Consultation
Story by Corey Horowitz
The West Toronto Railpath phase two will build on the overwhelming success of the first section, which has become one of the most important and celebrated pieces of cycling infrastructure and public space in the city.
The extension will add about 3.2 kilometres to the multi-use trail, beginning at the current terminus of phase one at Dundas West and Sterling Road, heading southeast and ending around Stanley Park near the intersection of Strachan Avenue and Wellington Street. Phase two will connect the path to the Fort York pedestrian and cycling bridge and the new Richmond-Adelaide bikeway.
The Sudbury Street Consultation was the third public meeting to address the West Toronto Railpath Extension Study. On the agenda was a presentation and discussion of the preferred options for alignment of the extension. Since the City has not arrived at a single option to recommend to the community, the main purpose of this meeting is to present all possible options and allow for feedback. At this point, the design options presented are still just concepts.
The presentation was led by Dan Egan from City of Toronto Transportation Services, Cycling Infrastructure and Programs. The room was full with residents, advocates and project affiliates including representatives from Cycle Toronto, the City Planning division, Regional Architects, Metrolinx and Scott Dobson from Friends of the West Toronto Railpath. City councillors Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) and Ana Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) were also there to speak in support of the project. Both councillors emphasized the social value of the railpath for the surrounding communities, with Bailão noting the addition of green space in key spots contributing to a wider network of parks near the rail corridor, such as Lisgar Park.
Egan explains from the outset that phase two section contains some very challenging physical aspects compared to phase one, particularly on portions of Sudbury Street, which runs diagonally between Queen and King. Among the issues will be the narrowing of several stretches of road, significant loss of on-street and private parking spaces, property acquisitions, sidewalk and road reconstruction and impacts on landscaping and frontages, including heritage status trees and buildings.
Questions from the audience ranged from concerns about loss of mature trees and greenspace to the possibility of alternative options not presented. Giselle, a 20-plus year resident raised a point about priorities, questioning the amount of truly safe space that exists for cyclists in Toronto and referring to the importance of safety for children in the area.
The option of sharrows (shared road markings) on a stretch of Sudbury Street — as opposed to a bike lane or cycle track — was poorly received, with one resident commenting that they simply should not be used. This was echoed by Liz Sutherland from Cycle Toronto, who stated that sharrows are not enough to make Sudbury Street less auto-centric, and also noting the potential for it to be a “cycling superhighway” of sorts for commuters. Another point spoke to the idea of a connection to Sorauren Park and the positive impact this could have for Parkdale, the only downtown urban priority neighbourhood, and one that has a deficiency of bike infrastructure.
The issue of traffic lane width on Sudbury Street was introduced by Robert from Cycle Toronto. He pointed out that with the recent City of Toronto decision to narrow its traffic lanes, the two lanes on Sudbury Street could be reduced to three meters each to accommodate a two-way cycle track. This is acknowledged by Egan, who adds that Sudbury Street is also a local road that permits the absence of centre markings between lanes, something which can have the effect of slowing traffic.
The completion of the West Toronto Railpath Extension Study is projected for early 2015. It will be documented in an Environmental Study Report and made available for the mandatory 30 day public review period. The detailed design is expected sometime in 2015-2016, with construction on the north section at Sterling Road anticipated in 2016.
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