It’s amazing what Toronto can do when there’s money at stake.
By the end of the month, the city will open 34.2 kilometres of new off-road bicycle trails (see below), the result of federal and provincial infrastructure money that had to be spent by the end of the year. The $23 million project was funded in part by the city, which put in $10 million.
The trails run through parts of the Finch hydro corridor across the top of the city, the Gatineau hydro corridor in Scarborough and the Leaside rail corridor.
It’s a 20 per cent increase in the city’s off-road trails. And it means a cyclist could bike off-road all the way from downtown to the Toronto Zoo.
Because the infrastructure money had to be spent quickly, the city installed the trails where it was easiest and not all of them connect.
“Everyone thinks, understandably, that putting three-and-a-half-metre-wide asphalt within a wide corridor wouldn’t be a major challenge, but with all the utilities, the archaeological issues and the major (road) crossings, there have been some real challenges,” says John Mende, the city’s director of transportation infrastructure management. “But we’ve managed to address them all,” he says.
Mende expects the city to build more off-road trails in the future.
After the debate over the Jarvis St. bike lanes and the removal of lanes on Pharmacy and Birchmount, Mende says “there is a reshifting of priorities.”
“We’ll focus more on our trails projects, which is essentially our priority right now.”
Off-road trails were also a priority for Mayor Rob Ford, who promised during last year’s election campaign to spend $50 million building 100 kilometres. But only $8 million is in the 2012 budget for the city’s bike infrastructure program.
For the latest trails, construction workers had to deal with pipelines and fiber optic cables that weren’t identified on any plans.
Thirteen signals were installed where the trails crossed busy streets, because tunnels or bridges would have been costly and triggered time-consuming environmental assessments.
And in the western portion of the Finch trail, staff worked with representatives of the Huron-Wendat First Nations to find a way to recognize the Parson’s archaeological site, a former village dating back to the latter part of the 1500s. In commemoration, the section of the trail between Jane and Keele Sts. has been signed as the "Huron-Wendat Trail".
Mendes says his department will report on future plans to the works committee in November.
Considerations include bridging the gaps in the Finch hydro corridor and building a trail along the Scarborough waterfront.
The city is opening 34.2 kilometres of paved cycling trails through hydro corridors and abandoned rail corridors.
FINCH HYDRO CORRIDOR
1. Norfinch Dr. to Dufferin St.: There’s still a fair amount of work to be done on this 4.7-kilometre stretch, but John Mende, the city’s director of transportation infrastructure management, says it should be complete by the end of September.
2. Dufferin St. to Yonge St.: The 4.2-kilometre section is almost done. On major streets such as Bathurst, the city is installing a traffic signal at the trail crossing. On minor streets, the city created textured crossings that look like interlocking brick.
3. Kennedy Rd. to Middlefield Rd.: The 4-kilometre stretch is about half done, but should still be complete by Sept. 30.
SCARBOROUGH PIT SPUR
4. Follows an old rail corridor for 2 kilometres that starts around Finch Ave. and Morningside Rd.
CN LEASIDE RAIL CORRIDOR
5. York Mills Rd. to Eglinton Ave.: The 4-kilometre trail goes through the old rail corridor, which is 10-metres wide in some locations. At the north end, it terminates just south of York Mills, but will connect at the south end to the Sunnybrook trail.
GATINEAU HYDRO CORRIDOR
6. Victoria Park to Kennedy Station: Aside from some landscaping, the 2.4-kilometre section is almost complete. Residents started using the trail as soon as the city put down the gravel base for the asphalt.
7. Kennedy station to Ortan Park Rd.: The 7.4-kilometre section will open mid-September.
8. Orton Park Rd. to Sheppard-Meadowvale area: The 5.5 kilometre section is 70 to 80 per cent complete.
- Patty Winsa