Story by Darja Pilipovic, photos courtesy of City of Toronto and Jun Nogami
We at dandyhorse and very pleased that it would appear that the West Toronto Railpath is finally going to be moving south. We haven't reported on any progress in a while -- so we thought we'd just provide a quick overview and update of where it's at right now.
The Toronto Bike Plan was put in motion by City Council in 2001, and set out several goals for on- and off-street cycling infrastructure. The first phase of the West Toronto Railpath was completed in 2008, linking Cariboo Avenue to the Dundas Street West overpass along the rail corridor. New trail connection priorities were adopted in 2012, and were recommended for an Environmental Assessment study (a study required by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to assess the potential effects of an individual project on the surrounding environment, while taking into consideration various social, cultural, and economic aspects) in order to develop a route to extend the West Toronto Railpath south from Dundas Street West to Strachan Avenue. Something the community has been clamouring for!
The primary components of an Environmental Assessment are to consult with government agencies and the public, consider and evaluate alternatives, and manage potential environmental effects. The study is then documented in an Environmental Study Report (ESR) and made available to the public for a 30 day review period.
The EA process with the City is being led by Cole Engineering and Victor Ford Associates, with regionalArchitects supporting the project and Montgomery Sisam Architects working on bridge design.
The previous two meetings, held on June and December, highlighted several areas of community concern and resulted in the voicing of multiple stakeholder comments and design suggestions. Key concerns were trail connections and access points, trail width, and potential conflicts among pedestrians and cyclists as well as detailed infrastructure suggestions and planning ideas.
At this time, there is no future public meeting scheduled.
However, the ESR will be made available to the public to review this Spring on the project website and local libraries.
After the 30 day review period and once the approval has been granted by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), the project will move into the implementation phase. It is expected that community engagement on the portion of the extension south of Abel Street will take place once the EA/ESR is approved -- and approval could happen either this summer or fall.
One of the main objectives of the plan is to ensure smooth integration with the first phase of the trail with second phase and surrounding community. The railpath will pass through industrial, commercial and residential neighbourhoods and connect various trails to create a network that connects several Toronto neighbourhoods. In addition to this, there are other contributors looking to integrate the railpath into their designs.
The King High Line, a prospective linear park project on the southwest edge of downtown Toronto also aims to improve connections between neighbourhoods, and has included a direct access connection to accommodate the railpath in their designs.
Another prospective addition is Metrolinx, (the regional and multi-modal authority for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) which has also expressed interest in incorporating phase two of the West Toronto Railpath into their plans. This will be impacted by the expansion of the Georgetown South project to increase rail capacity in relation to the Go Transit Union-Pearson Express link.
These prospective additions could provide even more connectivity between neighbourhoods, as well as access points and trails for cyclists.
More information, including a summary of the ESR and a FAQ including details on the next steps in the creation of the railpath and commonly asked questions, can be viewed at: www.toronto.ca/westrailpath
We at dandyhorse are very pleased to see this project moving along and will continue to keep you updated!
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