Local councillors at odds over proposal
City puts plan to revitalize Yonge Street on hold until next year by Chris Riddell
Willowdale residents have to wait at least another year until the ambitious plans laid out in the REimagining Yonge study go any further. Toronto City Council voted to defer the study until 2018 in last month’s budget meeting, and many aren’t happy, including Ward 23 councillor John Filion.
“People thought this was all about bicycle lanes,” said Filion. “It includes bicycle lanes, but this is about completely rejuvenating Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch, making it look terrific, making it function as part of the community, and making it an area that people who pay very high taxes and live nearby can be proud of.That’s all been taken away now.”
The project needed $4 million to go into the design phase, and half of that would have been covered by the federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.
Councillor David Shiner of Ward 24, which abuts Filion’s ward on the east side of Yonge Street past Finch Avenue, put forward the motion to defer the plan. At the meeting, Shiner argued the traffic impacts of the proposal need to be reconsidered, and the bike lanes should be extended all the way up to Steeles Avenue and moved to side streets rather than the busy thoroughfare of Yonge.
Shiner also said that building everything set forth in the plan would cost $37 million, and the city can’t afford that with its current budgetary constraints. Jared Kolb, director of Cycle Toronto, echoed Filion’s concern that a deferral could essentially kill the plan. “Our concern is that by deferring this to next year, since next year is an election year, we may not see any action until 2019,” said Kolb. “Then it remains to be seen how this fits into the capital reconstruction schedule. It may defer indefinitely.”
Michael Capotosto, president of the West Lansing Homeowners Association, has mixed feelings about the study. “I hate seeing the city defer positions because, if they keep deferring decisions, nothing gets done,” he said. “When they actually make the decision to do something, then let’s just stop analyzing the hell out of it and do something.”
REimagining Yonge would send more traffic to side streets, but Capotosto feels there are more pressing concerns at hand. “Frankly, a bigger impact in our neighbourhood is the Yonge-401 consideration because we have cars lined up all the way down Yonge Street to get on the 401,”he said.
Meanwhile, Willowdale residents will have to wait until the 2018 budget meeting to see if REimagining Yonge will ever come to fruition.
“Let’s just stop analyzing the hell out of it and do something. ”