Downtown relief line gets new funding and a route

Province announces $150 million for design one day after public consultation reveals proposed map and more details.

The downtown relief subway line is one step closer to becoming a reality, after city planning staff identified the preferred route for the transit project this week and the provincial government announced funding to design it.

At the TTC’s Greenwood complex on Wednesday, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the Liberal government would give provincial transit agency Metrolinx more than $150 million for planning and design work for the line, which would connect downtown Toronto with the Line 2 subway east of the Don River.

TTC officials called it the most significant funding to date for the relief line, which has been discussed by planners for decades and is considered among the city’s top transit priorities.

Mayor John Tory, who joined Del Duca at the announcement, said the line would be “critical” to easing overcrowding on the TTC’s existing network.


“Anybody who’s taken the TTC and used the Yonge street subway knows, that there are days when you can’t get on train after train, where Bloor and Yonge (station) almost becomes a dangerous place to be in terms of just handling the crowds,” Tory said.

Line 1, or the Yonge-University-Spadina line, is currently operating above its capacity of 26,000 people an hour, with 28,000 riders using the subway during its busiest period in its busiest direction.

That number is expected to increase to almost 40,000 riders per peak period hour by 2031. The relief line is seen as crucial to siphoning off some of those trips by providing an alternative route into the downtown core.

TTC CEO Andy Byford said days like Wednesday, when a smouldering cable shut down a stretch of Line 2 for three hours during morning rush hour, illustrate the need to expand Toronto’s subway network.
As it stands, Byford said, “if you have Line 1 or Line 2 go down, pretty much you only have one option: shuttle buses.”

At a public consultation meeting in Scarborough on Tuesday, city staff revealed what they say is the preferred alignment for the relief subway. The route would run south from Danforth Ave. beneath Pape Ave., and turn west just south of Queen St. East. From there it would run underneath Eastern Ave. until a point west of the Don River, where it would veer north and run beneath Queen St.

Staff have proposed eight stations, including interchanges with Pape Station on Line 2, and Osgoode and Queen Stations on Line 1. There would also be new stations at Queen and Sherbourne, King and Sumach, Queen and Pape, and connections to future SmartTrack stations at Eastern and Broadview and Gerrard and Pape.

The TTC provoked outrage from some residents this week after it sent more than 20 people notices warning that the city may need to expropriate their properties to make way for the Scarborough subway extension. Byford said it was too early to determine to what extent the relief line, which would travel through some of the densest parts of the city, would require similar expropriations.

“The alignment is not absolutely set in stone so it’s far too early to say what the impact on houses will be,’ he said. “But clearly any construction that’s done downtown, there’s going to be some impact.”

A report recommending the relief line alignment is expected to go before Tory’s executive committee on June 28. City staff has estimated that the relief line could take $3.2 billion and more than 13 years to build.

By BEN SPURRTransportation Reporter