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Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility

Text by James Bow

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When the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT opens for service late in 2021, it will be serviced by a new maintenance and storage facility located on former industrial lands northwest of the Eglinton/Black Creek intersection. As of 2019, The Eglinton Maintenance and Storage facility is being built by Metrolinx to store and maintain the line’s 76 Flexity Freedom LRT vehicles. The facility will be the fourth surface rail operations centre in Toronto, but it will differ from the TTC’s three other facilities in substantial ways.

Unlike the legacy streetcar network, the cars on the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT will operate in standard gauge. The line operates in a tunnel for over 19 kilometres, and service will be provided by permanently coupled two-car LRT trains. Also, by being built brand new for mostly off-the-shelf equipment, the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility is unlikely to have the idiosynchrasies found in Toronto’s older streetcar carhouses (although similarities will exist with the newest streetcar facility, Leslie Barns). Finally, it is the first surface rail facility in Toronto since 1921 not to be operated by the TTC. Metrolinx contracts out the operation of the facility with the facility with a private company.

Site Location and History

Plans for a storage and maintenance facility began soon after the City of Toronto and the TTC launched its Transit City plan for a network of LRT routes spanning the northern part of the city. The plan called for LRT lines on and beneath Eglinton Avenue, Jane Street, Don Mills, Sheppard East, Finch West, and out to Malvern. There were some suggestion of building these LRT lines to TTC gauge, and having legacy streetcars on the 512 ST. CLAIR streetcar line be stored in the storage facility planned for Eglinton, using tracks extended west from Gunns Loop via St. Clair and Scarlett Road. However, as the provincial government took over the responsbility for funding the project under its MoveOntario 2020 plan, it decided to build the new LRT lines to standard gauge, so as not to saddle other communities in Ontario with LRT lines with the TTC’s unusual gauge. The plan to connect the legacy and Transit City LRT systems via Scarlett Road was dropped, although plans for a storage facility serving the west end of the Eglinton LRT line remained.

Planners selected a site northwest of the intersection of Eglinton Avenue West and Black Creek Drive. This was the former location of the Kodak plant, which was once a major industrial employer in the area, but whose lands were now abandoned and derelict. Metrolinx moved forward with the property acquisition and site planning, but ran into concern and opposition from the residents of the Mount Dennis neighbourhood, who demanded public consultation. In May 2013, Metrolinx agreed to organize a public consultation process.

One major issue of resident concern was the plan for the northwest corner of the site to feature a natural-gas-fired power plant to act as a back-up generator capable of maintaining power for the entire Eglinton-Crosstown line. Not only could it keep the line operational in the event of a power outage, it could save 40% of the line’s electrical cost. The plant would have occupied a building 25 metres wide, 62 metres long and 9 metres tall. Residents objected to the natural gas plant, fearing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, on July 23, 2016, local Toronto City Council members Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio assured local residents that Metrolinx was looking into different methods of providing back-up power. Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced on March 28, 2017, that Metrolinx would use “an innovative system” of batteries capable of maintaining power on the line for up to four hours in the event of a blackout.

As Metrolinx dealt with resident concerns, Metrolinx designed a plan that re-used some of the old industrial buildings of the Kodak plant. Metrolinx announced its contract with a private consortiunm to operate the facility, and started construction soon thereafter. By October 2018, Metrolinx announced that the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility was largely complete and, on January 8, 2019, the facility took delivery of its first Flexity Freedom LRT vehicle, using the tracks for testing and inspection.

Site FEatures

The Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility occupies 23 hectares (57 acres) of land, with sufficient storage tracks and bays to handle up to 135 Flexity Freedom LRT vehicles. Additional expansion could bring the facility’s capacity up to 162 LRT vehicles. The facility has structures which handle important operational and maintenance tasks including:

  • vehicle cleaning and inspection (including a train-wash, a cleaning bay, and an automated vehicle inspection system).
  • a vehicle cleaning staff building.
  • an operations company building.
  • a maintenance building where all major repairs will be performed.
  • a road bridge over the Weston subdivision rail corridor, allowing staff and service vehicles to access the facility from the west.
  • facilities for the many maintenance workers and operating crews working here.

The facility is also designed with the latest in stormwater management practises, including two artificial ponds, a green roof, and green tracks designed to better integrate the facility with adjacent parkland in the Black Creek valley.

Readying For Operation

Due to delays to the building of Bombardier’s Flexity Freedom fleet, the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility opened without any equipment to store inside it. The first new vehicle arrived in January 2019, and five more vehicles joined it in the next few months. Reporters were invited to the facility on May 24, 2019 to see Flexity Freedom LRT vehicle 6201 pull out to show itself off, and the facility hosted hundreds of curious Torontonians the following Saturday at the city’s annual Doors Open festival. Attendees were treated to an extensive walking tour of the facility, with displays and signs describing the various stations, as well as the merits of the LRT itself.

Tracks were extended west out of the facility and over the bridge above Black Creek Drive, connecting to the tunnel that extends east to Brentcliffe Road. Early in 2020, Metrolinx anticipates operating trains from the facility to the first stations on the line, as the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT draws closer to completion.

Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility Image Archive

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