What's the problem with the Eglinton Connects plan?
When the Crosstown LRT opens in 2020, Eglinton Avenue is due to undergo a massive $350 million series of upgrades. There will be widened sidewalks, a bike lane, new trees, and public art as well as ways to protect the street's heritage buildings and manage development spurred by the transit line.
Sounds good, right? Not if you're Rob Ford or John Tory.
At a press event in which he was heckled by a shirtless protestor, Ford claimed Eglinton Connects, the blueprint for the changes, would reduce the road to two lanes and worsen traffic on connecting streets, a claim refuted by chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, who also said the street will never be as narrow as two lanes and that no parking spaces would be lost.
"The objective is to create a great pedestrian street," Keesmaat told reporters.
For 1.5 kms between Avenue and Mount Pleasant, the area that sees the least through traffic, the road will be cut back to three lanes: one through lane in each direction and a centre lane for turning. There, "traffic volumes diminish to the point where only one through lane in each direction is required to accommodate the forecasted traffic demands," a report notes.
Ford was also adamant at his press conference that the blueprint was developed in secret, without input from councillors. In fact, as Global News reports, the plans have been in the works for more than two years, featuring in newspaper ads, mail outs, and public consultations. We covered the plan in October of last year.
"A lot of the councillors weren't even aware of it yesterday, and we looked at it. Cause when I got briefed from the city manager, I wasn't told they were reducing lanes of traffic," Ford said.
The plan has come to council a handful of times before, but never as a complete package (that's due to happen today or tomorrow.) Ford voted against the first motion but was absent for the following three, which ended up heavily in support of commencing various related studies.
Mayoral candidate John Tory joined Ford in speaking out against Eglinton Connects, decrying the (greatly exaggerated) potential loss of traffic lanes and parking. He said the idea was "a non-starter" if it meant cutting back on vehicle lanes. Olivia Chow and Karen Stintz backed the plan.
Are Ford and Tory missing the mark with their opposition to Eglinton Connects? Has there been enough public consolation on the changes?
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Image: City of Toronto