By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
While Durham residents won’t be riding trains between Bowmanville and Union Station any time soon, they can expect the work to begin on laying those tracks next year.
During a recent presentation before Oshawa council, officials from Metrolinx informed them that construction is expected to begin in 2019 on a bridge over Highway 401 to accommodate the extended track.
The bridge, one of the several complicating factors in the Lakeshore East extension is on track to have shovels in the ground come next year, according to Andre Marois, director of R.E.R. corridor infrastructure for Lakeshore East.
The bridge over the 401 will accommodate the extended track that is expected to break off from the current Lakeshore East line just west of the current Oshawa GO station. Crossing the 401, the track will connect up with the existing CP rail line that runs on the north side of the highway.
Currently, the project is in the preliminary design and environmental assessment addendum stage. A technical advisory contract was initiated in October 2017 to assist with the project.
“We’re making some good progress on that preliminary design,” Marois says.
Public meetings to gather further feedback are also scheduled as part of the process and are expected to be held in mid-2018.
In general, the Lakeshore East extension has been a slowly simmering story in Durham Region, as the idea of extending rail service to Bowmanville was mentioned as early as 2008 in the province’s “Big Move” transit plan.
The current ideation of the project includes four new GO stations, including two in Oshawa. The first on the site of the former Knob Hill Farms grocery store, located at 500 Howard Street, was expropriated by Metrolinx in 2014. The second, located near Thornton Road along the future extension of Consumers Drive, was recently the topic of a hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board. The developer, Halloway Developments, put forward an application to build on the site after two years of getting zero commitment from Metrolinx to purchase the property for the future GO station. When the city denied the application, Halloway appealed to the OMB, who eventually sided with the city, officially preserving the site for Mertrolinx’s purposes.
According to Marois, Metrolinx is “currently in negotiations with the owner of that property” to move things forward.
During the presentation before council, Chris Burke, the director of service planning, planning and policy for Metrolinx, also detailed other efforts the provincial transit entity is making throughout the region.
These include work to electrify the Lakeshore East line to accommodate all-day service of trains every 15 minutes between Oshawa and Union Station, and work on the Whitby rail maintenance facility, which is expected to be operational this year. According to Burke, Metrolinx has also added a “significant” amount of infrastructure in the area, and has created over 500 additional parking spaces for the Oshawa station, which is notoriously packed to capacity.
“We’re very excited at Metrolinx for the challenges of the tasks that have been put before us,” Burke said.