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It already feels like end of the line

Jane and Highway 7: Geese greet guests at site of proposed subway extension

Zosia Bielski, National Post
Published: Saturday, March 25, 2006

Welcome to the site of the Greater Toronto Area’s newest subway terminus.

Yesterday, the scene at Jane and Highway 7 — where the Spadina line will extend by 2013 — was bleak.

A muddy field stood empty, save for empty beer bottles, for-lease signs and a stray shopping cart. Around it stood a Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Future Shop and Home Outfitters. With a sinkhole closing Jane at Highway 7 since Feb. 8, Canada geese outnumbered pedestrians three to one.

Thanks to Thursday’s $838-million windfall for transit in the Greater Toronto Area, this is where the subway will stop in seven years.

“I’ll be dead by then,” said Serge Mansour, manager of the local Home Outfitters. “A couple of years would be better.”

Yesterday, Mr. Mansour estimated that business was down by 50% because of the sinkhole.

At the nearby — and empty — Subway restaurant, employees didn’t register much excitement either: Business there is down by 75%.

“Why don’t they just leave the hole until then?” quipped an employee at the employment resource centre next door, referring to the fact that Vaughan officials won’t have the hole, presumed to be a water main leakage, sealed until at least May.

The subway extension fits in to Mayor David Miller’s hopes of uniting downtown Toronto and the 905, with Vaughan serving as a major transportation hub between the two regions.

Geese and sinkholes aside, Jane and Highway 7 is prime territory for a subway line extension, according to TTC spokeswoman Marilyn Bolton.

“Think back to Scarborough,” Ms. Bolton said yesterday. “There wasn’t much at Kennedy, but now look at it. I’m amazed: It’s become a real centre.”

Ms. Bolton reminded naysayers that Wilson was similarly desolate when the city extended the Spadina line there from St. George in 1978. “If they hadn’t built that, the Yonge line could not handle all the traffic from the north to the south today.”

The north end of the Spadina line is now Downsview, built in 1996. Although the area hasn’t developed into a burgeoning downtown hub, local landmarks include Downsview Park, site of the World Youth Day papal visit, as well as the ”SARSstock” concert, which flooded another nearby hallmark, the Idomo furniture store, with sewage. Downsview Park used to serve as an airstrip for a military base, and is now slated to become the country’s first urban national park.

“You plan your city where your development will go and you build your subways in underdeveloped areas because it’s cheaper. You don’t wiggle it around the CN Tower,” Ms. Bolton said. “The subway is a fixed item. It’s not like a bus route — you can’t change it around. You want it going in the right place.”

As of yesterday, the TTC’s environmental assessments only extended to Jane and Steeles streets, even though Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s budget touted a subway line farther north, to Jane and Highway 7.

“That’s because up until yesterday we didn’t have any money — we weren’t going anywhere,” Ms. Bolton explained.

“If that’s where they say it’s going, that’s where it’s going.” She said there will be plenty of time to draw up environmental assessments for a subway stop at Jane and Highway 7 as the other parts of the line are built in coming years.

Ms. Bolton said she could only speak “speculatively” about Jane and Highway 7 — an area known for Black Creek Pioneer Village and its long-horn beetles —as a city hub.

“I’m a downtown kid,” Ms. Bolton said. “I can hardly imagine it.”