In an ideal world, Vito Valela would like to see Allen Road buried underground and extended downtown.
That way, the expressway could still serve the needs of motorists – and even fulfill its original purpose, before the provincial government killed the idea in 1971 in the face of opposition, of carrying drivers downtown – while above ground it could be turned into land that better caters to the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and neighbourhoods cut in half by the road.
“Allen Road is the dividing line between the haves and the have nots. It (tunnelling Allen) would probably rejoin the communities. Everyone gets what they need,” Valela told The Mirror at a city public consultation meeting Monday, Dec. 10, night at the Ancaster Park Community Centre.
Tunnelling Allen underground is one of the options the city is considering for the road’s future. Other options include doing nothing; making minimal modifications; making significant improvements to traffic operations, the public realm, streetscaping, landscaping and integration with the surrounding neighbourhood; turning Allen into an arterial road with lower speed limits; closing part or all of the road.
The Allen poses several challenges, according to a city report. For example, drivers experience some of the longest traffic line ups in the city; intersections, especially at Lawrence and Eglinton avenues, are considered among the most challenging in the city; retaining walls and bridges will soon require reconstruction; there is poor access to TTC stations; the road is not well integrated with the surrounding neighbourhood; the interchange of Allen and Hwy. 401 is a major obstacle for local traffic, cycling and pedestrians.
Whatever the future holds for Allen, Valela stressed the road is a necessary expressway for cars.
“I don’t think we can live without Allen Road, realistically,” said the resident of the Wilson Heights Boulevard and Sheppard Avenue area. “I think they (city officials) have to be vehicle-sensitive as much as they have to be pedestrian and alternative- (users other than vehicles) sensitive, so put it underground.”
Overhearing Valela’s support for burying Allen, Paul Greenwood said tunnelling the road would be extremely expensive and take years. Valela agreed.
“I agree. I’m just talking about in my ideal world,” he said. Greenwood, who lives in the area of Lawrence Avenue and Allen, is worried the city may put too much emphasis on the needs of cyclists at the expense of motorists. “I see more of this bicyclists’ push. It doesn’t make sense to me to put weight on the environmental push and get rid of (Allen),” he told The Mirror. “
To get rid of it, you lose the connection from north to south (for vehicles) and what are you left with? I want to swing the pendulum back to the right.” Joe Genua, who lives in the area of Keele and Wilson, said Allen is serving its function well as it is now.
“Overall, it’s working. It works for me,” he said. “Ideally, if they stuck with the initial plan, it would have gone all the way downtown. That would have worked best for me but it works for me as it is. It works for what it is, it’s a short hop (on a north-south expressway).”
He would like to see a large parking lot built at the bottom of Allen to accommodate drivers who want transfer to the future Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT when it is completed. For more information about the city’s plans for Allen, visit www,toronto.ca/AllenRdStudy