A spokesperson for Metrolinx acknowledged it is considering abandoning a plan to close a portion of the Allen Expressway for one full year to speed up construction of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown light rail transit line.
Jamie Robinson said the transit planning agency hasn’t completely ruled out its original plan to close off the northbound lanes of the Allen from Eglinton Avenue to Lawrence Avenue for all of 2014 in order to save time on Crosstown tunneling for the underground portion of the line traveling east from Black Creek Drive along Eglinton Avenue.
But because of concerns raised by the city’s transportation department, Metrolinx is researching another plan to excavate a smaller diameter tunnel directly underneath Eglinton West station.
“We’re looking at another alternative,” confirmed Robinson last week, adding the new plan wouldn’t change the Crosstown’s timeline for tunneling which is expected to last two-and-a-half years.
He said an internal report on the matter is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
While a partial closure of the Allen would allow for more space for construction staging and allow 150 trucks transporting soil to enter the area daily, the city was concerned such an idea would seriously inconvenience traffic, said transportation spokesperson John Mende.
“Our concern was the impact on the local road network,” said Mende, director for transportation infrastructure for the city.
“All traffic wanting to access Allen Road northbound would have to go up to Lawrence Avenue, which would have put traffic pressure on parallel streets.”
Instead of issuing a recommendation for the city’s public work committee, which was to have voted on the Allen Road closure proposal before final approval from council, Mende said his staff instead asked Metrolinx to come up with a different idea.
But tunneling directly below the subway also presents challenges, said Robinson.
“There are all sorts of utilities that we want to avoid while tunneling,” he said. “It’s almost like we’ll have to thread the needle between all the infrastructure that is underneath the subway.”
Local city councillor Josh Colle, who opposes a closure of the Allen, said he was happy Metrolinx is trying to come up with a different plan.
“My concern was always making sure Metrolinx had exhausted every option,” said Colle, who represents the ward of Eglinton-Lawrence. “This is construction of a momentous scale.”
Colle said local elected representatives from all levels of government had already spoken against the closure idea due to the traffic impacts.