It’s full steam ahead for a new streetcar maintenance and storage facility at Ashbridges Bay, but area residents and the local councillor are still hoping the TTC will put the brakes on the project, and move it elsewhere.
On Feb. 2, the TTC approved a contract to remove contaminated soil from a site at Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.
This is the first construction step toward building the $435 million Ashbridges Bay light rail vehicle yard.
A new storage yard is needed to make room for 204 new 100-foot, low-floor vehicles, which are replacing an aging fleet of streetcars.
At the TTC meeting, local councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon requested a 90-day delay on soil removal, in order to explore whether the Ashbridges site is needed at all.
The TTC voted to proceed on schedule.
Many in the Leslieville community have been protesting the plan since its inception. In commuting to and from the storage yard, the light rail vehicles will have to travel mere steps from their homes, bringing what residents say will be congestion, noise and pollution to the neighbourhood.
Leslie and Lake Shore is already a busy intersection with 58,000 vehicles travelling through this spot daily, according to data from councillor McMahon.
The new rep’s hope is other sites such as the Hillcrest TTC yard at Davenport Avenue and Bathurst Street, and the Exhibition Loop could house most of the streetcars slated for Ashbridges and other alternative sites could be explored for the rest.
“The TTC has been reticent about looking at Hillcrest and Exhibition,” she told the Town Crier before the vote.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said while the commission will look at storing some of the new fleet at Hillcrest, that option won’t remove the need for the Ashbridges site.
The TTC held dozens of meetings between May 2008 and this January with various councillors and residents to examine other site options.
“At some point you need to make a decision and move forward,” Stintz said.
Caron Court lives two blocks from the Ashbridges site and urged the TTC to explore alternatives thoroughly. Like many of her neighbours’ homes, Court’s house is only a few metres from the proposed light rail vehicle route to the Ashbridges Bay facility.
“The TTC is trying to push this through,” she told the Town Crier.
“I don’t think they have analyzed (other sites) fully.”
But the TTC is remaining steadfast in its plan to build at Ashbridges.
“If we started from scratch, we’d never meet our deadlines,” Stintz said.
“This process is already three years old.”
The TTC wants the new facility completed by 2013. Construction is expected to start in September, while track-laying work for the vehicles along designated routes would be done between 2012 and mid-2013.
Court is also concerned about how construction noise and vibration will impact her family — including her young son Owen, and neighbours.
“I am hoping they don’t do construction in the early mornings or late evenings,” Court said.
She’s disappointed but not surprised TTC voted to proceed with the first part of the project.
“I do think there’s a solution out there if they really look into it,” she said.