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Thornhill residents concerned about Yonge North subway extension running under Royal Orchard neighbourhood

Metrolinx new proposal has subway extension divert east off Yonge Street, run underground north of Royal Orchard Blvd, then above-ground to connect to CN rail corridor
July 26, 2021
Irene Wong

Although the province has just announced a fourth station on the Yonge North subway extension at Clark Avenue in Thornhill, there is a neighbourhood in the area that is upset by the $5.6-billion route.

Since Metrolinx announced in March a revised route that will tunnel under homes in the Royal Orchard neighbourhood, this is the first time Metrolinx's face-to-face's talks have enraged homeowners in the community, located on the edge of Markham and Thornhill.

The first in-person meeting on July 12 got heated when residents got a sense that they were being “persuaded” instead of “consulted” for Option 3, the latest proposal from Metrolinx. The new proposal has the subway north extension divert east off Yonge Street, running underground north of Royal Orchard Blvd, then go above-ground connecting the existing CN rail corridor.

“Why don’t you get a full public consultation?” said one of the 25 attendees allowed in the meeting at 8111 Yonge St. due to COVID restrictions.

“You are repeating maximize benefits and reduce costs. Who benefits? Not Thornhill. Who suffers the cost? Talking about keeping the project within the original $5.6-billion funding envelope, did you calculate the cost for this community?” said Mia Poscente, president of Royal Orchard Ratepayers Association, who insisted that community residents’ voices need to be heard.

Noise and vibration concerns from the community, including Donalbain Crescent, Thorny Brae Drive, Banquo Road and Kirk Drive, had not yet been addressed.

Metrolinx indicated during the meeting that the distance between the house on the ground over the tunnel and the bottom of the tunnel is 25 metres. The depth of the tunnel will be subjected to further geotechnical study.

Attendees were invited to visit the experience hall where they can get a feeling of the noise and vibration of subway moving in the tunnel.

Metrolinx hosted an in-person meeting with Royal Orchard residents on July 12. - Irene Wong/Metroland photo

“Can I spend a night in that hall? The thing is you do not have someone live in the hall. I have a family member living in the basement of my 60-year-old house," said Naama Zukier of Stop Option 3 Steering Committee, who pushbacked.

The attendees insisted there is no rationale to build a subway line through the heart of the neighbourhood, and no guarantee the ongoing mitigation suggested by Metrolinx to keep homes safe and residents comfortable will be delivered.

In addition to noise and vibration, the residents has just been informed that the neighbourhood will be docked with at least two structures that provide emergency exits from the subway tunnel.

The Royal Orchard community also voiced their displeasure about Metrolinx not revealing the cost-saving steps they can take for the original Yonge routing.

Metrolinx disclosed in the meeting that they were able to amend the TTC/York Region plan by locating the subway storage yard north of High Tech to ground level on the CN right of way from underground, and the costs were reduced by $700 million. And “hundreds of millions” can be further saved by tunneling under the East Don River as well as situating the bus terminal at Steeles Station at ground level.

“They can keep the project within the original $5.6-billion funding envelope without routing under the homes of the Royal Orchard community,” Bill McNaught of The Gazebo Task Force said.

Metrolinx says it values the opportunity to continue the conversation and host more meetings in the Royal Orchard area.