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Province dedicated to GO east expansion, minister says

Durham MP Granville Anderson, flanked by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, Durham Regional Chair Roger Anderson, Councillor Bob Chapman and Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster, speaks at the official opening of the new Oshawa GO station building. (Photo by Dave Flaherty)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation says the planned Lakeshore East GO expansion into Bowmanville remains full speed ahead despite unanswered questions regarding costs, track alignment and infrastructure requirements.

Steven Del Duca was in Oshawa on Oct. 20 for the grand opening of the new Oshawa station building and said the expansion project is still expected to be completed by 2023/2024, with construction slated to begin in October 2019.

“We are absolutely committed to make sure this is going to happen. Frankly, Premier Kathleen Wynne has been very clear on this we are going get trains up to Bowmanville,” Del Duca said.

The proposed expansion will extend GO rail service by 20 kilometres into Clarington and will include the construction of four new stops including two in Oshawa, to be located on Thornton Road and Ritson Road.

First announced in 2016, project cost estimates have been scarce, with the Ontario government only stating so far that funding will be included in an overall $160 billion investment in public infrastructure over 12 years.

Metrolinx spokesperson Scott Money told The Express via email a total cost estimate has not been determined at this time.

“Metrolinx is in discussions with the corridor owner, CP Rail, related to the planned expansion of GO rail service between Oshawa and Bowmanville.  Subsequent to the results of the negotiations, further analysis of the estimated capital and operating costs will be required,” Money wrote.

To see this plan become reality, Metrolinx will need to build a rail bridge over Highway 401 to link into the CP Rail track system.

Del Duca said details on track alignment and the location of the rail bridge have yet to be finalized as well.

“I know [our team] are continuing to work very closely with CP to make sure that we can get an agreement in place so we can get an exact sense of how we’re going to go forward. One of the responsibilities the province will have is, of course, the bridge so the trains can go where they need to go and I sincerely hope we’ll have an additional update in the very near future,” Del Duca said.

As reported earlier in The Oshawa Express, at a regional council meeting in September, Metrolinx director of rail corridor and infrastructure Andre Lalonde said because the company doesn’t own this section of track it will not be included in a $31 billion electrification project, which Durham regional chair and CEO Roger Anderson said would be unacceptable.

“Let me be clear… it better be electric,” Anderson told Metrolinx representatives at the time. “Are you hearing this message? If you are going to put that hole in the ground to cross over the 401… it better be electric.”

However, Money informed The Express no final decisions regarding track electrification past Oshawa have been made yet either.

“We will continue to work with CP Rail to examine what type of service could be provided on the extension and how it may complement the existing plans for electrified GO rail service on the Lakeshore East GO corridor,” Money wrote.

Metrolinx has forecasted a 2025 completion for the track electrification process, with a promise of trains leaving every 15 minutes from Oshawa to Union Station.

The new Oshawa station was officially open to the public as of Oct. 21, replacing the original station built in the 1960s.

The $14 million project included the construction of a new building with upgrades such a modernized ticket counter and waiting area and larger public washrooms, as well as improvements to the parking area, bike racks and kiss and ride lot.

Future work includes completion of a canopy connecting the new building with the VIA pedestrian bridge and demolition of the old station building, slated to be finished by April 2018.

Oshawa Councillor Bob Chapman says the updated station is good news for the entire region.

“Investment in transit is always a good investment,” Chapman said. “The station is a welcome sight and it looks great. But it’s not just for Oshawa, this is for the folks in northern Durham who come down by bus to catch the train and those in the east, not just in Durham, but Port Hope and Cobourg.”

The Oshawa GO Station is one of the busiest in the province, with an estimated 7,850 passengers using services daily, accounting for 16 per cent of the total ridership on the Lakeshore East line.