Residents in the Thornhill neighbourhood in York Region were blindsided in mid March when Metrolinx finally released its long-awaited Initial Business Case for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE). The best-performing option proceeds north from Finch Station about 5 km, and then turns sharply east and tunnels under 60 homes, one school and a creek to reach the GO Richmond Hill corridor. It then gradually reaches the surface and remains at grade within the corridor to a terminus in Richmond Hill Centre (RHC). Three stations are proposed – underground at Steeles Ave, at-grade between Highways 7 and 407 (“Bridge” Station) and at-grade at RHC. The main positive feature of this option is that Bridge Station will be located in the heart of two planned dense communities – Langstaff Gateway Centre and Richmond Hill Centre. It will also be well located for connecting bus routes. Because the capital cost of this option is below the funding envelope of $5.6B, a fourth station is being studied at one of three candidate locations.
This controversial alignment was approved by the Metrolinx board months ago and is called the “Approved Reference Alignment”. However, residents only became aware of it in mid March. Naturally there is plenty of concern about noise, vibration, property values and construction disruption. Metrolinx is moving ahead rapidly with community and public engagement as well as field testing. It expects to go to the market with a Request for Qualifications this Fall, and is predicting completion of the work by 2030.
Transport Action Ontario (TAO) supports construction of this subway “missing link”. It is essential to the orderly growth of the northern GTHA. As taxpayers, we also support getting the best value for our capital dollars. Therefore it is concerning that, despite its width, the portion under Yonge Street is slated for tunneling rather than the much cheaper cut and cover.
Resident concerns also need to be heeded. Metrolinx has not provided solid answers about why the eastward piece cannot be constructed using cut & cover under the currently-undeveloped lands slated for the Langstaff Gateway Centre. TAO intends to submit a proposal to Metrolinx showing that such a route appears technically feasible.
There is also resident uncertainty about how well noise/vibration mitigation will work, and if Metrolinx will compensate them for any property devaluation resulting from subway infrastructure on their properties. Lastly, residents need to be assured that there will be at least one, hopefully two, stations in Thornhill as compensation for all the disruption.
TAO will continue to actively monitor this project and may issue further statements as more information becomes available.