osgoode trees ontario line

Toronto just halted a subway station's construction to save some old trees

A group of historic trees have been spared from the chainsaw for a few more days after a court injunction, and though some are relieved that the tree cover outside of Osgoode Hall will survive a bit longer, others are outraged that the temporary court order has stalled progress on Toronto's long-anticipated Ontario Line subway.

Ontario's Superior Court granted an interim injunction to halt the tree-cutting operation over the weekend as crews had already begun removing the over 200-year-old trees at the southwest edge of Osgoode Hall, where a future Ontario Line subway station will be constructed.

The court order prevents Metrolinx from resuming the tree-chopping until midnight on Feb. 10 unless extended before that date passes.

The injunction has been hailed as a win by community groups and politicians, including city councillor Josh Matlow, who has campaigned against the removal of trees and argues that other options should be explored.

Matlow attended a rally on Friday prior to the injunction, calling on Metrolinx to "put down your chainsaws and work with us on a better outcome.

Others have clapped back on social media, calling out the demographics of protestors and implying that they do not use transit themselves.

In a Feb. 3 blog post, Metrolinx defended its plan to cut down the trees, writing, "Building a new subway line through Canada's largest city means unavoidable impacts to things like trees, buildings, and roads, and Metrolinx makes every effort to mitigate those impacts."

"Tree removals will take place on the Osgoode Hall grounds to allow for the construction of the new Ontario Line station," reads the blog post, adding that it "was not a decision Metrolinx made lightly, and it was only made after the agency explored multiple other options to ensure the site was the best option moving forward."

Metrolinx argues in its blog post that the site of the trees is required for a "keyhole" construction shaft to allow excavation of the main station complex, and that "the southwest section of the Osgoode Hall grounds is the only space that is able to accommodate this."

The Osgoode Hall trees were spared by judges amid outcry, but critics are raising questions about why there was such resistance to the tree removal, while almost nobody spoke out against the cutting of even more trees in the marginalized Moss Park community.

Others argue that the tree vs subway debate is a binary view of the situation that fails to acknowledge other options, despite Metrolinx arguing that this is the only practical approach.

It may only prove a short delay, but, if extended, the injunction could threaten to cut into construction timelines for the station coming to this site.

Once complete, the 15-station Ontario Line is expected to accommodate nearly 400,000 trips every day and provide relief to the overcrowded Line 1.

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