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Transit commission approves Ashbridges Bay carhouse

At its Wednesday, February 3 meeting, the Toronto Transit Commission approved a project to build a storage and maintenance facility for the TTC’s new light-rail vehicles at the southeast corner of Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East near the Ashbridges Bay Water Treatment Plant.

The TTC will also build new streetcar tracks along Leslie Street between Queen Street East and the new carhouse and a new junction at Queen East and Leslie.

The TTC needs a new building to store and maintain streetcars by 2013, when Bombardier Inc. starts delivering prototype low-floor streetcars for the TTC. By 2018, the TTC will operating 204 of the new light-rail vehicles.

The problem: the new streetcars are almost twice as long as the TTC’s current cars, the CLRVs (Canadian Light Rail Vehicles). While the TTC could update and expand its current carhouses, Roncesvalles and Russell (or “Connaught”), both facilities are more than 80 years old and to expand either would mean intruding into nearby residential neighbourhoods.

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who represents nearby Ward 32 Beaches - East York urged the commission to postpone approving the site for 90 days, so that TTC staff could study alternate sites to store and maintain the cars. McMahon felt that the site — close to the waterfront — is inappropriate for a carhouse. More important, she stated that the facility was unnecessary because the TTC could still use the Russell and Roncesvalles facilities and also store the new streetcars at its Hillcrest Facility on Bathurst Street near Davenport Road and in extra space at the Exhibition Loop.

The Commission asked staff to review McMahon’s suggestion of storing some of the cars at Hillcrest and at the Exhibition, but still agreed to go ahead with the facility.

Councillor Paula Fletcher, who represents Ward 30 Toronto Danforth — the area that actually contains the facility — also objected to the project. She spoke on behalf of nearby residents who worry about the noise from streetcars passing their homes when entering and leaving service to and from the new carhouse.

The Commissioners also approved awarding a contract to a company that will start clearing the site of trees shortly. Since the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) may restrict the contractor from fully clearing vegetation from the site during nesting season from April 14 until August 1, the TTC needed to approve the contract and the project as soon as possible, or else have to delay the work until after August. The project is already about six months behind schedule.

The TTC has hosted several community meetings about its plans to build the new facility, starting in June, 2009.

You can learn more about the TTC’s project to build the Ashbridges carhouse here.