Community members ask city to support shift of Ontario Line station

By Megan Bocchinfuso –

Metrolinx’s Ontario Line construction heard pleas for a design modification of the station box (keyhole) at Osgoode Hall Garden at its first March 22 meeting.

Preliminary work on the 15-stop subway is already under way, and major construction is expected to start this year. Its 15.6 kilometres are to run from Exhibition Place through downtown to Riverdale and north to the Ontario Science Centre.

The subcommittee for wards 10 (Spadina-Fort York), 13 (Toronto Centre) and 14 (Danforth), chaired by Ward 10 councillor Ausma Malik, is mandated “to hear from the public regarding Metrolinx’s development” and pass on recommendations for the city to forward to the Ontario government and its transit agency, according to the city’s website.

Liz Driver, director of Campbell House Museum (at University Avenue and Queen Street), plus transit advocate Steve Munro, asked the subcommittee to support shifting the keyhole for Metrolinx’s planned Osgoode station four metres west. The move, to leave space for mature trees, would partially place the station in the anticipated University Park, a project greenlit by City Council, Driver said during the meeting.

For two years, Driver, Munro and other community members have pushed Metrolinx for alternatives to its tree-destroying Osgoode plan. She and community members demanded a third-party review of Metrolinx’s insistence that all of the alternative options presented “fatal flaws.”

The resulting report by the Parsons engineering firm, released on February 1, concluded that the station keyhole proposed by Metrolinx “would appear to be the best qualified option.”

However, the report admitted that “…the reference material provided by Metrolinx and their technical advisers does not provide sufficient proof of fatal flaws that would preclude further investigation of some of these locations,” including the University Park proposal.

Metrolinx’s current plan would put the station keyhole inside the fence of Osgoode Hall Garden, meaning all the escalators, elevators and the concourse would be inside the historic garden, Munro said. It would leave only one vertical metre of topsoil for tree planting above part of the underground concourse. Mature trees couldn’t grow there, he explained, because they need several metres.

Metrolinx was widely criticized for removing dozens of mature trees for stations in both Osgoode Hall Gardens and Moss Park. According to the provincial agency’s website, Metrolinx plans to cut down a total of 2,800 trees in preparation for the Ontario Line in the Don Valley, Walmsley Brook and West Don crossing.

“Downtown desperately needs mature trees,” Driver said. She and Munro want city staff to “work very hard” and persuade Metrolinx to integrate the station building in University Park.

“This is the moment,” Driver said. “It’s a very important moment for our community, our politicians and our staff to come together with Metrolinx’s decision-makers to find a mutually agreeable way forward.”

But as subcommittee member and councillor of Ward 14, Paula Fletcher pointed out, the final decision is out of the city’s control. “As great as this [proposal] might be, Metrolinx is always the final decision maker,” the councillor said. “It’s … nothing that we (the city) can move forward directly.”
the bridge reached out to Metrolinx for comment but did not receive a response.