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LRT go-ahead sparks emotion on Eglinton

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AARON HARRIS/TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE
Mike Riad talked about how his business was affected while the Sheppard subway line was being built at Domino’s Pizza at Sheppard and Willowdale in Toronto Thursday.

TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE
April 03, 2009 1:00 a.m.

There was excitement along Eglinton Avenue yesterday amid news of the province’s promise to pay for a $4.6 billion light rail line from Kennedy station to the airport.

But there were also flourishes of skepticism and plenty of questions from people who work and live along Eglinton.

Officials from the TTC and the province counselled patience.

Some questions, particularly around construction timelines, are still pending further study, said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

It will be “at least six months” before the TTC can say exactly where and when the shovels will go in the ground, but that’s not unusual, he said.

The 32.5-kilometre Eglinton light rail line was part of an almost $9 billion transit funding package announced by Queen’s Park Wednesday. It is the cornerstone of the city’s Transit City plan, which includes seven LRT lines.

Construction is expected to begin next year, with an anticipated completion date of 2016.

Another line on Finch West also received support, along with a plan to refurbish and expand the Scarborough Rapid Transit line.

The three projects are expected to create 86,000 jobs, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

But what’s planned as the first Transit City line, on Sheppard East, has not been funded yet, even though ground-breaking is anticipated this fall for completion in 2012 or 2013.

“We’re 14 months out from the earliest construction on Eglinton,” said Giambrone. “But (construction) will not just start from one end and go to the other. It will have multiple points.”

Work will be taking place at the east- and west-end portions of the line and the central underground stretch at the same time.

“There’s going to be at least three major theatres of construction, and we’re looking at whether we can move even faster,” he said.

Meantime, transit officials are still studying the complicated issues of how the network will connect.

What Torontonians are saying

  • Mike Riad, manager since 1991 of Domino’s Pizza, Sheppard Avenue East at Willowdale Avenue: “The Sheppard subway took forever. We’re a delivery company. Our cars are on the road everywhere. During construction, from late 1995 to 1999, we were down to two lanes most of the time — one east lane, one west lane — two years behind schedule. But look at the Fairview Mall now (farther east on the Sheppard line). It’s a crazy, busy place. It’s huge … A transit line to the airport would disrupt businesses but it would be fantastic. Every city in the world has one.”

  • Minnie Karras, owner of Minnie Karras Hair Stylists, which opened 28 years ago just east of Yonge Street at 30 Eglinton Ave. E.: “They say it will take six years (of construction). I will double that. I won’t even be here. I’ll be dead and buried by that time. Imagine the chaos. But in the long run, once they finish, it will be fine.”

  • Angela Ng, Leaside Flowers, 830 Eglinton Ave. E.: “I really think Toronto needs a first-rate public transit system. Last summer I visited Paris and London — European cities all have public transit to the airport … We’ll have to put up with the inconvenience. The number of customers here will probably drop. But (more transit) will be good for the city.”

  • Shawn Fraser, walking on Eglinton Avenue West near Dufferin Street: “We’re a growing city and this looks like a great change, a straight east-west line — smart, convenient.




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