By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa MPP Jennifer French has plenty of questions on the status of the Lakeshore East GO expansion, but says she is not getting answers.
French says she asked about the expansion during question period, but was met with a non-answer.
“We want to make sure that [the Bowmanville GO expansion] is still on the horizon for our region, and it’s frustrating that I cannot get a real answer as to whether or not the project is on track,” says French.
If the expansion to Bowmanville were to take effect, that would mean four new stops would be added along the tracks, two of which would be in Oshawa.
The new stops would include ones at Thornton Road and Ritson Road in Oshawa, plus one at Courtice Road in Courtice, and another at Martin Road in Bowmanville.
Metrolinx is working with Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway to add a 20-km stretch to the Lakeshore East GO line.
The plan for the addition is to have four trains in the morning and four trains in the afternoon that go in and out of Bowmanville. Metrolinx has estimated the expanded service will begin between 2023 and 2024, with construction expected to start in 2019.
“It was a commitment from the previous [Liberal] government,” says French. “The commitment was made, it seems to have been moving forward. People in our region drive by the signs everyday.”
However, she says that she has been told, “all transit and transportation projects are under review.”
She says that she doesn’t think it’s fair for Oshawa and the rest of Durham to hold their breath as to whether or not the expansion will be happening.
“It has been a huge priority for our community for a long time, and we need to have it confirmed that it is indeed going forward,” says French. “Because if it isn’t, we need to make it clear to this new government why it’s very important to our area.”
She says that having the expansion would provide the area with better transportation choices to Bowmanville, and it would take cars off Highway 401 during rush hour.
“There are reasons to do this. I don’t know what the reason would be for canceling the project,” says French. “We want to know that it’s moving forward and we want some idea of the timeline because the more uncertainty we have to endure, the longer we have to wait. So the government needs to make its plans and make a decision, and they need to make that decision clear.”
“Frankly, when [Premier Doug Ford] is talking about a subway to Pickering, that in no way indicates to me that the government is listening to the priorities of the region,” says French.
After a long pause, French says that she doesn’t know whether or not the current provincial government will be going through with the expansion.
French says that she wants to redirect the current provincial government to “take a look at what our region has identified as their transportation and regional priorities, and the two-way GO service to Bowmanville is top of that list.”
Durham MPP Lindsey Park says her government supported extending GO service to Bowmanville in its platform and that mindset hasn’t changed.
“We are committed to delivering an all-day service expansion. We take that commitment made in our platform very seriously,” Park says.
While Park acknowledges the PCs are reviewing major transit projects, she says, “Metrolinx is moving forward to expand Lakeshore GO service to Durham Region.”
“They are currently working through the business case,” she adds.
That business case includes a number of steps and requires approval from Metrolinx’s board of directors.
Once that approval takes place, Park says her government will provide a ‘technical briefing’ to its partners, such as the City of Oshawa and Durham Region.
During a presentation to Oshawa council earlier this year, Metrolinx officials said construction for the expansion is expected to begin next year.
However, Park says that estimate “is based on a number of contingencies that need to happen.”
The expansion will require a bridge over Highway 401 to accommodate the extended track.
But Metrolinx will need to make use of tracks owned by CP Rail and negotiations to make that happen are ongoing.
“An agreement will need to be completed in order for that date to be met. I’m certainly a voice within government for us to continue these negotiations to get a deal done as soon as possible,” Park says.
There will be a cost associated with Metrolinx using CP’s tracks.
“They are not just going to let Metrolinx use their railways for free,” Park notes.
She also explains the CP tracks have been used only for commercial trains so there will need to be studies to properly prepare to bring passenger trains in as well.