Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Airport Rail Link Proposal

Metrolinx, which took over the Union-Pearson Air Link file from GO Transit a few weeks ago, has made a new proposal to improve service in the Weston corridor between Union Station, Brampton and points west. As you might recall, the residents of Weston were generally opposed to this project because the original proposal would see a massive increase in rail traffic but no benefit to the community, as the trains would not stop in Weston, In addition, the rail traffic increase would have resulted in the closure of several key roads which connect the main residential areas with the business district on Weston Road. Also, the community was opposed to the use of diesel trains, which was the only part of their platform which I didn't agree with. The new proposal addresses most of the concerns, and will pave the way for frequent GO service to Brampton and beyond, and a fast airport link layered on top of that.

The details of the proposal include:

  • Adding 3 new tracks from the airport spur to Dundas Street and 4 new tracks to east of Strachan Avenue in the 25 kilometre rail corridor [between] Malton and Union Station
  • Widening of 14 bridges and eliminating all level road crossings on the CN line in the Georgetown South Corridor, including new grade separations at Strachan Avenue, Denison Road and Carlingview Drive
  • A covered depressed rail corridor through Weston that maintains Church and King streets at their present grade and a pedestrian overpass at John Street
  • Relocating the GO Weston Stop from John Street to Lawrence Avenue and the construction of a Weston Station to accommodate GO trains and Union-Pearson rail link trains
  • Modifications to the Bloor GO/Dundas TTC station to accommodate GO and Union-Pearson rail link trains
  • Consideration for the Gateway Hub proposed in the Metrolinx Regional Transportation at the proposed Eglinton Light Rail Transit crossing line for GO trains
  • Designing for a potential future GO/Union-Pearson rail link station at Woodbine
  • Adding a new 3.3 kilometre rail spur from the GO Georgetown Line to Terminal 1 at the Pearson Airport with 7 grade separations
  • Opening a new passenger station at Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport with additional stops in Weston, the Bloor GO/Dundas TTC station and at Union Station
  • Introducing fully modernized clean-diesel rail passenger cars with stringent emission controls
  • A potential new Union-Pearson rail link train repair and maintenance yard
From my perspective, this seems to be the best possible outcome, but a few things must be said. Firstly, a depressed corridor through Weston, and the potential for the same at Strachan Avenue will make this proposal significantly more expensive than the previous one. Of course, this is an example of more inclusive planning. The effects on how governments respond to community groups may be well worth the cost. Secondly, if the trains must go onto airport property, then a VIA-GO-Express-Finch LRT hub must be built at Woodbine Racetrack to connect passengers with the airport. Finally, we should think very carefully about where to put the Express stop in Weston. A stop Eglinton (though not technically in Weston) would connect to higher order transit and serve more people, but a stop at Lawrence may preclude a future stop at Eglinton.

All in all I'm happy to see this proposal move forward in a much better way. It will leave to better transit not only between the core and the airport, but for VIA Rail, the entire Georgetown corridor, the Barrie corridor and the future Bolton corridor.

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