Developers in Liberty Village are proposing a pedestrian and cycling structure to bridge the rail corridor and close the gap east of Dufferin St. “almost like a giant kind of zipper.” According to the Toronto Star.
“We’re slowly reconnecting the city,” said urban designer Michel Trocmé of a planned pedestrian-cycling bridge at Fort York, the Strachan Ave. overpass and a second King Liberty link close to Shaw St.
“The one area that’s missing is right in here, which happens to be the densest part of this area of west Queen West and Liberty Village.”
Called the King High Line, the structure would slowly incline along east-west ramps that hug the rail corridor on the north and south sides before crossing directly over the tracks at the foot of Abell St. where it meets Sudbury St. The plan calls for elevators and stairs at either end of the direct crossing.
First Capital and Urbancorp, the developers who hired Trocmé to create the structure’s proposed alignment, would contribute $1.2 million to $1.5 million to the project.
But the group is looking to Metrolinx, the province and the city for the remainder of the funding.
“It’s the big question,” said Trocmé.
What is not in question is that access to Liberty Village is cut off by the CN tracks to the north and south as well as the Gardiner Expressway, and that the area needs more entrances and exits.
“This is one of the frustrations,” agrees Councillor Mike Layton. “The density was approved and built before all of the infrastructure was in place. Since then we’ve just been trying to play catch-up to the developers.”
Layton sympathizes with Liberty Village residents who are forced to walk all the way down around Strachan or Atlantic Aves. to get in and out.
But the city has already allocated millions to build the future King-Liberty pedestrian-cyclist link close to Shaw St. and further east, the Fort York bridge, which started with an environmental assessment six years ago.
The Fort York bridge was first envisioned as one continuous structure across both rail corridors to the north of the historic property.
But projected costs of more than $20 million sent city staff back to the drawing board. The Fort York crossing will now be two separate bridges, one span across each rail corridor, connected by a path. Access on and off the bridge will be through ramps at either end.
A multi-year environmental assessment for the King-Liberty pedestrian-cyclist link near Shaw was recently completed, and the city secured a significant amount of funding in the 2014 capital budget to build the bridge in the coming years, said Layton. It’s estimated the structure, which will have stairs and elevators, will cost upwards of $5 million to $6 million.
The city is also pushing forward with a new east-west street at the south end of Liberty Village, which will require the purchase of private land.
“We need to prioritize as a city where funding goes,” said Layton. “We have a limited funding envelope and there are already other priority projects in close proximity.”
The alignment for the new road should be finalized in the next couple of months.
It’s also questionable if Metrolinx will fund the King High Line.
The provincial transit agency includes funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure as part of larger capital projects and doesn’t have a separate budget, said spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.
Meanwhile, Trocmé’s group has been meeting since July with cycling groups, city officials, BIAs, and councillors to get input into the proposed King High Line.
“It will reduce a lot of congestion and car traffic, which is an enormous benefit to the area,” said Ross Parry, a media spokesperson for the group. “I think if people are given the opportunity to bike, people will use (the King High Line.) If you try to leave this area at 4 or 5 p.m. in a car, it’s terrible.”
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