By John Devine
Special to Ontario Contruction News
When Toronto’s Yonge North Subway Extension got the green light to proceed last April, reaction was fast and positive, with municipal and provincial leaders hailing the project as a ‘we can’t wait’ transit plan that will link fast-growing York Region with the employment, shopping, and entertainment offerings of Toronto.
And as those municipal leaders were quick to point out, benefits will flow both ways.
The “announcement of a significant investment from the Province jumpstarts the construction of the Yonge North Subway Extension – Regional Council’s number one transportation priority,” York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson said at the time. “Subways unlock new travel choices for all commuters. With 52,000 businesses already within York Region, this transit investment will help drive national, provincial and regional prosperity.”
Let’s take a moment to recall the value and importance of this landmark project. First, there’s the investment in public transit, a $5.6 billion injection of cash over the next 10 years, and part of the province’s $28.5 billion expansion of Ontario’s transit network. It brings four communities together in a cross-jurisdictional undertaking that involves Toronto, Markham, Vaughan, and Richmond Hill. By the time it is completed, it will carry riders along 7.4 kilometres north on Yonge Street, from Finch Station to the Richmond Hill/Langstaff Gateway Urban Growth Centre at Highway 7.
“The Yonge North Subway Extension is the most justified rapid transit investment in the GTA,” said City of Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.
“As Chair of the York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, I have dedicated my time to advancing this project, to securing funding and to starting construction during this term of office. (The) announcement is welcome news to the beleaguered York Region commuters and I applaud the provincial government for its bold initiative to connect the 905 and 416.”
The route will have a number of new stops for commuters to embark and disembark. It will include up to six stations, as well as two intermodal terminals and 2,000 commuter parking spaces near Yonge Street and Highway 407.
There’s no set deadline for completion of the work, but officials say that large subway projects like this one can take up to 10 years to finish. It’s still early days, with preliminary planning, design, and engineering (PDE) now underway. The federal government has committed $36 million to this phase, while the province, through Metrolinx, is providing $55 million. A 2015 report, Yonge Relief Network Study, found that the Yonge Street line is currently operating over capacity, and that only a subway can handle future commuter numbers of 165,000 people each weekday.
“Yonge Street is one of York Region’s busiest roads, and with more high-rise development planned for the future, it will only get busier. Putting the right technology in place is crucial and can’t wait … because the Yonge segment of Line 1 plays a critical role in regional transport, its effective operation is essential for an effective, resilient, and accessible transport system,” reads the report.
The extension, planners say, fills in a missing piece in the regional transit network, making transit use among GTA communities more seamless and efficient.
“This project supports vital transportation networks that connect cities, and it will help continue our economic growth,” said Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow. “We appreciate this investment.”
Click here to view a video about the project.