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Four options on the table for GO expansion

This map shows the four options under consideration by Metrolinx for the expansion of GO train service into Bowmanville. (image courtesy of Metrolinx)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Metrolinx has laid its cards on the table, but it appears only one is enticing to local residents and politicians.

The province’s transit authority held public information sessions in Oshawa and Bowmanville recently, laying out four options currently being investigated for the expansion of the Lakeshore East line.

The first option is one that has been on the table since 2016 when it was first announced by the previous Liberal government.

This route would see the line move northeast from the current Oshawa GO station on Bloor Street to a station in the area of Thornton Road and Consumer’s Drive near the city’s border with Whitby.

The line would continue near the downtown core with a station located at the former Ontario Malleable Iron Company and Knob Hill Farms building on Howard Street.

It would then continue on to stops in Courtice and Bowmanville.

The second option would eliminate the station at Thornton Road and see the line continue straight east from Bloor Street station then head north on existing CP Rail tracks.

The tracks would then head to the east to continue to the Howard Street station and continue on in the same fashion as the first option.

The third option would continue on from the existing Oshawa station, heading east to a stop to be located in the area of Ritson Road, south of Bloor Street. This option would also continue on into Courtice and Bowmanville.

The fourth option diverts greatly from the original proposed route.

After arriving at the station on Bloor Street, the route would move onto the Ritson Road South station and then continue to the south, running close to the shores of Lake Ontario before arriving at a stop on Waverly Avenue in Bowmanville.

This option does not include a stop in Courtice.

Manuel Pedrosa, manager of communications and stakeholder relations with Metrolinx, said there were several factors as to why multiple options are being looked at.

Costs for the original route unveiled by the Liberals in 2016 have increased significantly, Pedrosa reports.

He said the potential cost has risen from $550 million to between $750 million and $1.2 billion.

“Going back to the original option, we’ve been working through the details of costing that option, and there have been new requirements that CP has provided us that increased the costing,” he explains.

Metrolinx is looking to achieve a benefit-cost ratio of 1:1, Pedrosa adds.

Under the original plan, he said Metrolinx would have only received 56 cents of benefit for every dollar invested.

Pedrosa notes the details, including costs, of three newer options are currently being finalized.

However, he did say whatever option is chosen there are no plans to electrify the tracks.

This is because Metrolinx is only focusing on electrification for infrastructure it owns.

He also noted there is a focus on providing all-day service.

An updated business case for the expansion is in the works, and Pedrosa says Metrolinx hopes to have it finished by summer or the fall.

This unfinished business case was shared with regional chair John Henry and the mayors of Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington during a recent meeting.

Shortly after the meeting, the region released a statement where Henry reaffirmed his support for the original option.

“This route, north of Highway 401, became a key component of future land use and transportation network plans in Durham Region,” said Henry in the statement. “It will help to deliver economic revitalization of our downtown areas; address the needs of our growing community; open new catchment areas for GO ridership; stimulate job creation and mixed-use development around the stations, and drive an increase in land value in the rail corridor.”

Mayor Dan Carter also voiced his backing of this direction.

“The project on the north side of the 401, the preferred option, is a project people have been working on for many years now…[and] really is better because of the reason it ticks all the boxes,” Carter told The Oshawa Express. “And if you really want to see the impact it can have in our community, that’s the route I’d like to see, and that’s what I’m going to fight for.”

Carter said while that option may take longer, he’s okay with that. He also pointed out millions of dollars have been spent by both local governments and the province already.

“Let’s figure out how to make sure that we get the right route for the right reasons to be able to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

Ward 4 regional councillor Rick Kerr said the economic impact to the community would be much greater with a route north of the 401.

“There is probably half a billion worth if they go the south route, but there’s probably $20 billion-plus if you go the north route,” he said.

Kerr said Trent University, which recently started work on a significant expansion, is being “totally forgotten.”

Kerr notes the proposed station at Thornton Road and Consumers Drive would be very close to Trent.

“The station is about half a kilometre from [the university]…so it can grow and not only satisfy students in Oshawa and Whitby, but students get on the train from Scarborough, Pickering, and Ajax and walk half a kilometre [to class]. You can’t even do that at U of T,” Kerr said.

Several city councillors took aim at both Metrolinx and the Ford government during a recent meeting.

Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson said Oshawa MPP Jennifer French and Durham MPP Lindsey Park should both be invited to share their views with council.

He also wants to ask Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek to address council as well, although he was openly doubtful it would happen.

“It’s amazing for a government that is ‘Open for Business,’ when GM [announced it was closing the Oshawa plant], our Premier ran away and hid under a rock,” Nicholson said.

He said the city is “not going to roll over and play dead” and must fight for a line that runs north of the 401.

“We cannot turn our back on 21,000 jobs, 6,000 new [housing] units and the regeneration of the southern part of our city,” he said.

Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said the rail expansion could be one of the “biggest economic stimulators” in Oshawa’s history.

He said while the province is pumping money into the west end of the GTA, to the point of “over-stimulus and overspending,” Durham Region and its communities “have to beg for their own money.”

“We are begging for our taxpayers to get their tax money back in the form of investment,” he said.

However, to Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, it doesn’t appear the project is a priority to Metrolinx or the provincial government, especially in times of finding fiscal efficiencies.

He said given the circumstances, the city and its residents may need to play a bit of the waiting game for the best result.

“We may have to accept a longer timeline to get what we really want,” Gray said.

Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey believes most residents aren’t overly worried about the particulars of the route, they just want the service.

“If [Metrolinx] is giving us the option to get it cheaper or faster…how many residents are worried about the location? They want to get on the train and off the train,” she added.