Yonge/401 Interchange Moving Forward (UPDATED)

(UPDATED 10/21/13) As announced in last month’s newsletter, last week, I met with local residents and Willowdale MPP David Zimmer about plans to relieve congestion on Yonge Street by improving the traffic flow from southbound Yonge Street onto eastbound Highway 401.  Finding a solution that works – and getting it built – is my top priority.  To this end, I have already obtained the City’s 50% share of funding to complete the necessary studies, and I am now focused on securing money to pay the City’s portion of design and construction costs.

The next step in the process is an Environmental Assessment to decide which of the proposed options works best. The Province wants the EA done in two stages and has offered half the money for the first stage, with the balance available only after the first stage is complete.  City staff has said the EA should be done in one stage, and that the Provincial approach unnecessarily delays the project by at least four months.

At the meeting, after hearing the two points of view expressed by myself and Minister Zimmer, the position of most residents could be summed up as follows: we just want the City and the Province to work together to get this done.

In this instance, this may mean having the City accept the Province’s conditions.  On a positive note, Minister Zimmer offered a commitment from the Province to “earmark” funds for the next phase of the EA.

By accepting the Province’s conditions, City staff can immediately begin work on the traffic modelling portion of the EA.  That work should be completed by March 2014, and the project will then be paused until the Province provides additional funding. As we near this point, I will rely on the assurance from Minister Zimmer that the funds have been set aside and, presumably, can be released expeditiously.

I also wish to thank David Zimmer for attending, and for obtaining a letter from Transportation Minister Glen Murray which appears to secure long-term Provincial commitment to this project. In addition, thanks to the YCCA and WLHA for assisting with chairing the meeting.

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ORIGINAL POST (10/11/2013):

As you know, traffic congestion is the number one problem in our area and the single greatest cause is the overflow of cars trying to turn east onto Highway 401 from Yonge Street.  We are working towards a solution.  For details please attend a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at North York Civic Centre.

If you have any questions prior to the meeting, please contact Callum MacDonald atcmacdon7@toronto.ca or at 416-395-6411.

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As residents in the Willowdale area know all too well, the section of Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and Highway 401 is among the most congested in the city during peak hours. To a significant extent, this congestion is caused by an extremely ineffective method of moving cars from southbound Yonge onto eastbound 401.

Several years ago, due to frustration with the lack of solutions being proposed by City transportation staff, I obtained Council approval to initiate an independent study of the problem. As a result, the need for a flyover or similar solution to move traffic smoothly from Yonge to the eastbound 401 was identified as a high priority.

Over the past year, the City has conducted a technical analysis which determined that there are several options which could work. The next stage is to conduct an Environmental Assessment, as required through Provincial legislation, to evaluate the various options in terms of such factors as effectiveness, cost, impact on both Yonge Street and Highway 401, and impact on surrounding communities. This EA, which provides for community input, would take approximately one year to complete. Following this, City Council could initiate the construction phase of the project.

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Funding and timing of construction

The cost of the technical study was paid for by the City and the Province on a 50/50 shared basis. The City is requesting that the Province also share the cost of the Environmental Assessment. At the time of this writing, the Provincial Ministry of Transportation has proposed that the EA be conducted in two parts rather than one, with guaranteed funding for the first part only, and subsequent EA funding set aside but not guaranteed until the results of the first stage are available.

If the EA is done in two stages, that alone will delay the project by four to six months, which in turn could seriously prolong the current intolerable level of congestion.  This will likely push its completion into 2015, thereby delaying the project.

To get this urgent work completed as quickly as possible we require guaranteed funding – from both the City and the Province –  to complete the EA in 2014.  We also need secured funding in advance – again from both the City and the Province – to be able to move immediately into the design and construction phases.