Eglinton Connects planning study up for debate at city council

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford held an uncharacteristically early-morning press briefing Tuesday to denounce a plan he claims many councillors haven’t seen before (they have) and that, he said, would reduce Eglinton Avenue to two lanes (it wouldn’t).

City council was scheduled to the latest iteration of a plan to transform Eglinton into “distinct streetscapes”  once the Crosstown LRT is completed in 2020.

The “Eglinton Connects Planning Study“, which has been in the works for the past two years suggests installing bike lanes, widening sidewalks, and developing mixed use areas for pedestrians.

Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat told reporters on Monday no parking spaces will be lost and Eglinton will not be reduced to one lane of traffic on each side.

But Ford told reporters gathered at the corner of Eglinton and Westover Hill Road the opposite.

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“When the people find out that the lanes of traffic on Eglinton go from five lanes to two and all the traffic will go to the side streets, there’s going to be major problems with this,” Ford said.

“A lot of the councillors weren’t even aware of it yesterday and we looked at it. Cause when I got briefed from the city manager, I wasn’t told they were reducing lanes of traffic.”

Since the study started in January, 2012, the city has taken out full-page newspaper ads, published newsletters online and sent snail-mail flyers on four occasions to people living within 500 metres of Eglinton Avenue, city staff told Global News. There have also been “pop-up consultations” by city staff and events and festivals on the road, two radio ads, web banners on the Toronto website, city press releases and regular updates on the website dedicated to the plan.

Some iteration of development plans for Eglinton Avenue have been before council six different times in seven different motions: The mayor voted against the first proposal in 2009, was absent from three other votes and there was no vote recorded for the remaining  three.

An artist's rendering of what Eglinton Avenue could look like with the proposed Eglinton Connects development. Handout
An artist's rendering of what Eglinton Avenue could look like with the proposed Eglinton Connects development. Handout


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Mayoral candidate John Tory also released a statement coming out against the plan.

“Any proposal that will add to road congestion by reducing lanes of traffic is a non-starter in my books,” Tory said. “EglintonConnects will do exactly that and will increase traffic by ten per cent on adjacent residential streets.”

The Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit system is a 19-kilometre corridor that includes a 10-kilometre underground portion, between Keele Street and Laird Drive.

The $5-billion project will be comprised of 25 stations linking 54 bus routes, three subway stations and various GO Transit lines.

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