transform yonge

Newly-approved infrastructure project will totally transform Yonge Street in Toronto

A plan to completely revitalize the portion of Yonge Street from Sheppard Avenue to the Finch Hydro Corridor in North York's Willowdale has been in the works for several years now, and while it has certainly faced its fair share of setbacks and challenges, city council has finally voted in favour of its implementation.

The City of Toronto has been carrying out a study called the REimagining Yonge Street Environmental Assessment in order to evaluate opportunities to improve the streetscape and public realm for all users (pedestrians, cyclists, transit and vehicles) along this part of Yonge Street, and a plan called Transform Yonge was developed in response to the study's findings.

And after three rounds at city council, Transform Yonge officially passed on Dec. 17. 

The recommended final design will see the reconstruction of Yonge Street from Florence Avenue/Avondale Avenue to Hendon Avenue/Bishop Avenue, including a cross-section reduction from six to four vehicle lanes as well as wider sidewalks and boulevards. 

The transformation will also include new and enhanced pedestrian crossings with traffic signals and turn restrictions at some intersections, a centre landscaped median, protected bicycle lanes (cycle tracks), and on-street lay-bys for parking, loading and deliveries where right-of way width permits. 

The implementation of Transform Yonge will also result in the removal of both northbound and southbound left-turn lanes at the intersection of Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue, and modifications in the section of Finch Avenue and Hendon Avenue/Bishop Avenue to improve TTC bus travel will be made. 

In other words, this project will bring improvements for every kind of road user, and John Fillion, the city councillor behind the plan, said Willowdale will now finally "get the main street it deserves."

According to the environmental assessment study submitted to the infrastructure and environment committee in November, the quality of the Yonge Street streetscape has not kept up with the area's transportation network and the scale and density of development, and it is in need of full reconstruction within five to eight years. 

Current challenges in the area include boulevards that have deteriorated so much that full reconstruction is necessary, sub-standard (narrow) sidewalk widths and few opportunities for safe pedestrian crossings, and an overall need to improve safety and health outcomes for people who walk and cycle.

The report also states that the overarching goals of the project are to "facilitate efficient movement of people, surface transit, and general traffic through better utilization of North York Centre's road network; improve safety and reduce the number of people who are killed and seriously injured on the street in keeping with the City's Vision Zero Road Safety Plan; improve vibrancy of the streetscape in keeping with the economic importance of North York Centre; and address state-of-good repair along the corridor."

Transportation services therefore selected the Transform Yonge plan as it best supports these goals as well as the city's broader policy objectives, including its climate action strategy, TransformTO.

The total capital cost of implementing Transform Yonge is estimated at $60.44 million, and this includes the detailed design, municipal servicing, and utility relocations. 

Funding for detailed design and capital construction is not currently identified within the approved 2020-2029 capital budget and plan for transportation services, however, but the report indicates that opportunities to secure funding through the development review process, particularly as it relates to streetscape costs, are being pursued.

Assuming funding is procured, a complete environmental study report and 30-day public review period is expected for the project in Q2 of 2021, a detailed design would be completed in 2023–2025, and construction would begin in 2026. 

Lead photo by

Joe Cressy

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