'The decibels would decimate Leslieville': Hundreds write to city about Ontario Line plan

Council's executive committee voted Wednesday to back a transit agreement with the province that scraps plans for a TTC upload and moves ahead with an expanded subway line — but it's an agreement that sparked "a high volume" of feedback from the public in the form of hundreds of letters and emails.

Executive committee backed agreement to scrap subway upload, build Ontario Line

Toronto Mayor John Tory has thrown his support behind Premier Doug Ford's Ontario Line in exchange for a planned subway upload being scrapped. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Mayor John Tory's executive committee voted Wednesday to back a transit agreement with the province that scraps plans for a TTC upload and moves ahead with an expanded subway line — but it's an agreement that sparked "a high volume" of feedback from the public in the form of hundreds of letters and emails.

The deal, announced on Oct. 16, calls for the province to stand down on an earlier pledge to take over the running of the city's subway system in exchange for the mayor's support for the so-called Ontario Line. That subway line replaces the original plans for a downtown relief line and calls for 15 subway stops between Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre.

The agreement will be voted on by city council as a whole next week.

Announced earlier this year, the project remains in the early planning stages but has a preliminary price tag of nearly $11 billion. 

"I know there are those who will oppose this initiative," Mayor John Tory said when addressing the media Wednesday morning before the meeting. But, he said, the detailed report from city and TTC officials about the plan indicates it is a "good deal."

Metrolinx released this image of the proposed Ontario Line, which could include 15 potential stations. (Metrolinx)

In the calendar listing for Wednesday's meeting, a note makes specific mention of "a high volume of communications" about the plan.

A letter from Janice Solomon, executive director of the Toronto Entertainment District BIA, expressed the agency's "strong support" for prioritizing downtown transit via the Ontario Line. Another piece of correspondence quoted by city staff calls the plan "bad for our city."

Some residents expressed concern about noise and air pollution, and the impact on green space in areas the line would travel through.

Some of the residents and agencies that wrote to the city gave submissions at Wednesday's meeting.

Some residents calling for below-ground tracks

Parent and pediatrician Mark Tessaro lives near Jimmie Simpson Park, not far from GO train tracks that are set to be expanded under the Ontario Line plan. "The decibels would decimate Leslieville," he said. 

Some east-end residents are calling for parts of the Ontario Line slated to run above ground to move below ground to reduce the impact on their neighbourhoods. In response, Metrolinx published a blog post detailing how above-ground stops would make transfers to GO easier, and save money.

"Making easier connections will be one of the important principles behind the design of Toronto's new Ontario Line subway, which will connect with GO trains and TTC routes," the blog states.

The post uses the proposed above-ground station at East Harbour, near Lake Shore Boulevard East and the Don Valley Parkway, as an example.

"At East Harbour, we are building the Union Station of the east, so we will need strong connections between the subway and GO," Metrolinx chief planning officer Mathieu Goetzke said in the blog post. "With the GO line elevated above ground level there, the challenge is to get Ontario Line and the GO line working together providing as seamless as possible transfers."

East Harbour staying above ground will also save money because the line can cross the Don River with a bridge, as opposed to a more-costly tunnel, the post went on.

The executive committee also voted to talk with Metrolinx and make sure city staff are involved in reviewing and informing plans for things like safety, noise and vibration. 

The city would also ask Metrolinx "to consider options for constructing further portions of the Ontario Line underground, where local impacts cannot be reasonably managed."

Unanswered questions

A consortium of residents and community groups also rallied outside city hall Wednesday morning to express their concerns about the deal. In a news release, the group called scrapping the planned subway upload "a positive step," but said concerns remain about "dozens of unanswered questions" about the Ontario Line related to neighbourhood disruptions and funding, among other issues.

On Wednesday, Tory said he would move a motion during the meeting that specifically calls for feedback to the plan to be incorporated into the formal planning process.

Representatives from various community groups, as well as NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, centre-right, rallied outside Toronto City Hall Wednesday ahead of the executive committee debate over a transit deal struck between the city and the province. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The deal also covers other transit projects and sets out funding schemes for each.

If approved, the deal will re-allocate nearly $3.8 billion in federal infrastructure funding the city has already acquired to build transit.

City documents show $660 million will go toward building a three-stop subway extension of Line 2 to Scarborough — the Ford government's preferred vision for the project.

The city will also provide $3.16 billion worth of federal dollars for the Ontario Line.

The province has also agreed to pay for the capital costs associated with building the Eglinton West LRT expansion and extending the Yonge subway extension north of Finch.

Expected completion dates for the various projects include 2027 for the Ontario Line, 2029-2030 for the Scarborough expansion, 2029-2030 for the Yonge subway extension and 2030-2031 for the Eglinton expansion.

You can watch the entire meeting via the city's YouTube channel.

With files from Lauren Pelley