Jennifer Keesmaat puts support behind original 'Transform Yonge' project
Codi Wilson, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, October 9, 2018 2:47PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 9, 2018 9:44PM EDT
Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat has vowed to move ahead with the original Transform Yonge proposal, which recommended reducing Yonge Street from six lanes to four between Sheppard and Finch avenues, to make room for bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
Keesmaat said the plan was developed following a two-year consultation process and will make the area a “beautiful and wonderful destination in North York.”
"We have an opportunity here to take this underperforming urban centre that has a subway running right through the heart of it and to turn it in to a wonderful destination and a wonderful place," Keesmaat told reporters at a campaign event Tuesday. "This is the right plan for the future. This is about addressing population growth and creating a heart in North York as was always envisioned."
The original Transform Yonge plan was rejected by Tory and a number of his allies on council and Tory subsequently asked staff to prepare a modified plan which would allow the number of lanes of traffic on Yonge Street to remain the same.
The modified plan suggested that a bike lane run along a parallel corridor on Beecroft Road.
At the time, Tory called the intersection of Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue “chaotic” and said removing lanes on the street was “unacceptable.”
“I am on record as not supporting that particular way of doing it which takes out two lanes of traffic,” he told CP24 in March.
In the initial staff report, traffic data pointed to an increase in commute times along Yonge Street by one or two minutes on average if the two lanes were removed.
Tory’s plan was initially supposed to cost an additional $22 million but staff later said that number could be reduced to $9 million.
Keesmaat was among of group of city builders to pen an open letter to council, urging them to reconsider moving ahead with Tory’s alternative plan.
The scaled-down plan was eventually put on hold and sent back to staff for further study.
"Mayor Tory has supported a different plan. He has supported a plan that is less preferred to the Transform Yonge proposal. It is less safe for pedestrians, for cyclists, as well as for drivers. It it also provides less support for main street retail and for existing businesses," Keesmaat said Tuesday.
"It also includes a longer and more disruptive construction period."
In a written statement, Keesmaat accussed Tory of lacking a "vision" for the city.
“As with his decision to prop up a failing elevated section of the Gardiner East, Mayor Tory has again demonstrated a clear lack of vision for how to build 21st-century neighbourhoods that prioritize vibrant main streets and safety for all road users, instead choosing to spend more taxpayer dollars on approaches with less desirable outcomes for people and businesses,” Keesmaat said.
“We can choose a better future for North York Centre that accommodates for growth; today, there are 56,000 people living within walking distance, and that number is projected to grow to 100,000 people in the coming years. By building an attractive and green pedestrian promenade, wider sidewalks and safer crossings, beautiful landscaped medians, and new public spaces in front of shops and restaurants, we can make this place a destination, rather than a thoroughfare.”
In response to her comments, Tory's office said Keesmaat has "always been in favour of eliminating car lanes."
"Yonge Street needs to be replaced and sidewalks need to be improved but we have to do it sensibly. The Mayor’s plan improves all modes of transportation and transit in the area without negatively impacting any of the others," Tory's camp said in a written statement.
"What the Mayor won't do is eliminate lanes of traffic on one of the most congested stretches of roadway in the entire city."