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Will trains soon link airport and downtown Toronto?



Yesterday, Wednesday, January 21, Metrolinx announced a revised version of the proposed rail link between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station. The link appears in a package of other measures to improve GO Transit service to Bolton, Bradford, Brampton, Georgetown, Guelph and North Etobicoke.

The “Georgetown South service expansion and Union - Pearson rail link” projects will add 28 kilometers of new track for rail passenger service and significantly improve the current rail corridor.

The projects include:

  • Upgrading the current GO train service between Union Station and Georgetown so that trains operate in both directions all day;
  • Upgrading the current GO train service between Union Station and Bradford so that trains operate in both directions all day;
  • Introducing all-day express GO train service between Union Station and Brampton;
  • Introducing rush-hour GO train service between Union Station and Bolton;
  • Introducing rush-hour GO train service between Union Station and Guelph; and
  • Introducing all-day passenger rail service between Union Station and Pearson, using the Georgetown line.

Metrolinx will host a series of public consultation meetings in early February as part of the environmental assessment process before finalizing the project. It expects that the projects will cost about $875 million to complete.

Expanding the south Georgetown rail corridor

Details include:

  • Building about 25 kilometers of new rail between Malton and Union Station, with three new tracks north of Dundas Street West in Toronto and four new tracks between Dundas Street West and a point just east of Strachan Avenue.
  • Widening 14 bridges, eliminating all street-level road crossings and building new grade separations at Strachan Avenue, Denison Road and Carlingview Drive;
  • Moving the Weston GO Station southward from John Street to Lawrence Avenue West and upgrading the station to serve both GO and Union - Pearson trains;
  • Protecting the Weston community by maintaining links between both sides of the railway tracks and building a railway tunnel. GO and Union - Pearson trains will pass through the tunnel after leaving Weston Station. The tunnel will allow Church and King Streets to remain open, resulting in fewer rail-crossing delays for pedestrians and motorists. The project would eliminate the current street-level crossing at John Street and close John to motorists. A new overpass will help pedestrians walk between both parts of John.
  • Modifiying GO’s Bloor Station (east of Bloor and Dundas Streets West) to accommodate GO and Union-Pearson trains. (Metrolinx’ media backgrounders and webpages also suggest — but don’t specifically spell out — that upgrading Bloor Station would also include a link to the TTC’s 2 Bloor - Danforth subway at Dundas West Station.)
  • Designing a future station where the line crosses Eglinton Avenue West in the Mount Dennis community to allow passengers to connect with the TTC’s Eglinton - Crosstown light rail Transit City line.
  • Designing a possible future station at the Woodbine racetrack and future entertainment complex. (This station may also allow passengers to connect with the TTC’s Finch West - Etobicoke light rail Transit City line.)
Building the Union - Pearson rail link

Details include:

  • Building a 3.3 kilometer-long rail spur from GO’s Georgetown Line to Pearson’s Terminal 1 with seven grade separations;
  • Building a a new passenger station at Terminal 1 (Depending on the final Transit City routes, this station may also allow passengers to connect with the TTC’s Etobicoke - Finch West and Eglinton Crosstown light rail Transit City lines.)
  • Revising the original Blue 22 proposal so that the line includes stops at Weston and Bloor Stations. This will allow passengers from areas other than downtown Toronto to travel more easily to and from the airport;
  • Designing, and possibly building, a new yard for repairing and maintaining Union - Pearson rail link trains;
  • Modifiying GO’s Bloor Station (east of Bloor and Dundas Streets West) to accommodate GO and Union - Pearson trains. (Metrolinx’ media backgrounders and webpages also suggest — but don’t specifically spell out — that upgrading Bloor Station would also include a link to the TTC’s 2 Bloor - Danforth subway at Dundas West Station.)
  • Designing a possible future station at the Woodbine racetrack and future entertainment complex. (This station may also allow passengers to connect with the TTC’s Etobicoke - Finch West light rail Transit City line.)

Depending on the outcome of the public consultations and the environmental assessment, Metrolinx expects that construction could start as early as this fall, with some service starting in 2014.

The Toronto Star reports that Infrastructure Ontario — the provincial agency that supports renewing major infrastructure projects in Ontario is negotiating with SNC-Lavalin to finance and operate the Union - Pearson rail line. (Lavalin was the proponent of the earlier Blue 22 proposal to operate express trains between the airport and downtown Toronto.)

The operator of the link — whoever that may be — will convert and refurbish old Budd rail diesel cars to provide the service. Metrolinx, however, proposes electrifying the service within 15 years.

According to Metrolinx, Georgetown GO trains will carry as many as 34,000 passengers during morning rush hours by 2031. Building the Union - Pearson link will eliminate as many as 1.2 million car trips each year from Greater Toronto Area roads, Metrolinx says.


Backgrounders

You can read Metrolinx’ news release announcing the projects here.

You can read Metrolinx’ backgrounder with more details about the projects here.

You can visit the Metrolinx Georgetown South expansion webpages here.

You can visit GO Transit’s GO-TRIP (GO Transit rail improvement program) webpages here.

You can visit GO Transit’s Georgetown South expansion and airport rail link webpages here.


Media reports

You can read the Globe and Mail article on the announcement here.

You can read the National Post article on the announcement here.

You can read the Toronto Star article on the announcement here.

You can read the Toronto Sun article on the announcement here.


Blue 22

On December 15, Metrolinx announced that it would lead the process to improve the Georgetown rail corridor and develop a link between Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station. However, many earlier studies have propsed a rail link between Union and Pearson.

On November 13, 2003, Hon. David Collenette, then the federal minister of transport, announced that Union Pearson AirLink Group (UPAG) would finance, design, construct, operate and maintain a rail link connecting Pearson with Union.

The minister announced that the air-rail link, or “Blue 22”, would be a safe, secure, efficient, accessible and environmentally responsible service providing a fast, direct trip the airport and Union. It would operate with only one stop at Bloor Station, where passengers could transfer to and from the TTC’s 2 Bloor - Danforth subway at Dundas West Station. The name Blue 22 referred to the line’s traveling time of 22 minutes between downtown and the airport.

SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc., a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group of Companies, owns UPAG.


Community opposition

Residents of communities along the route of Blue 22 — particularly in the former town of Weston — oppose the proposal. You can read about the Weston Community Coalition’s ongoing campaign to cancel — or improve — the proposed line here.


Last week, GO announced improvements at the West Toronto Diamond — another project to improve service along the 31 Georgetown line.


You can read Transit Toronto’s history of the Georgetown GO line by Daniel Garcia and Sean Marshall here.