Proposed Yonge North TTC subway extension to have fewer stations, change route due to rising costs

WATCH ABOVE: Metrolinx has announced more detailed plans of a proposed TTC Young Street Line extension. Plans include fewer stops than anticipated, but two of those stops will be in Richmond Hill. As Sean O’Shea reports, many people who live there are looking forward to a quicker ride to the city.

The Ontario government is on the verge of noticeably changing the scope of the proposed Yonge North TTC subway extension due to rising cost estimates.

An initial business case by Metrolinx Thursday morning outlined how the planned Line 1 extension will be shifting routes slightly in the north end in order to avoid a cemetery and will need to run partially above ground along the existing rail corridor in an effort to contain the price of bringing the line to the Richmond Hill Centre Transit Terminal area north of Highway 7 from Finch station.

Also, it’s being recommended that there only be up to four stations in total. The initial plan contemplated up to six new stations at the following location streets and locations mostly straight along Yonge Street: Cummer Avenue, Steeles Avenue, Clark Avenue, Royal Orchard Boulevard, Longbridge Road-Langstaff Road East and Richmond Hill Centre terminal.

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Stations envisioned at Cummer, Clark and Royal Orchard are on the block to be removed from the plan. Under the initial business case, there would be a station at Steeles Avenue and then two above-ground stations, one at Highway 7 and one north of Richmond Hill Centre terminal at High Tech Road. A storage facility for up to 12 trains was contemplated along the rail corridor north of High Tech Road.

The current estimated cost of building the three-stop version of the subway extension sits between $4.3 billion and $5.1 billion. Every additional station beyond that would each cost approximately $500 million. Further planning for a fourth station location will be undertaken, but further analysis of the revised alignment suggested it would be located near Royal Orchard. The total cost and budget for the original 7.4-kilometre extension was pegged at $5.6 billion.

Two other tunneling options with three stops each and closer to the original alignment were put forward in the business case. Those options had cost estimates ranging between $4.5 billion and $5.8 billion.

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The document said it’s anticipated there will be approximately 94,100 daily riders under the new alignment while the two tunneled alignments were forecast to see between 97,600 and 109,900 daily riders. The move east of Yonge Street was estimated to add 42 seconds to the journey.

According to the report, construction could begin in late 2023 and should be finished by 2030.

The latest developments on the subway extension appear to conflict slightly with an overall vision put forward by transit officials in York Region where promotional materials outline several major projects along the Yonge Street corridor that would be near the potential stations.

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Although talked about for years, the extension project was first unveiled by the Ford government ahead of the 2019 Ontario budget as part of a $28.5-billion suite of transit network expansion projects, which also included the new Ontario Line (initially pegged to cost $10.9 billion), the Scarborough Line 2 subway extension (estimated to cost $5.5 billion) and extending the yet-to-be-open Eglinton Crosstown west toward Renforth Drive from Mount Dennis station (budgeted to cost $4.7 billion).

During the 2019 federal election, the government’s transit network expansion plan entered into the campaign as Ford and others called for budgetary support. Ford subsequently said the Ontario government could ultimately foot the entire bill in order to see the vision realized.

Toronto city council and the federal government ultimately backed the Ontario government’s transit expansion vision.

Meanwhile, Metrolinx, which also oversees GO Transit and coordinates major transit expansion projects, has been responsible for developing the initial business case for the project. The agency’s board of directors is set to review the details at a March 25 meeting.

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