Allen Road needs work, and the City is soliciting ideas from the public on what improvements to implement. A public meeting was held last night at the Beth Shalom Synagogue to get local residents involved in a Terms of Reference study, the goal of which is to build a framework for a future environmental assessment on the Allen that will present possible improvements. The assessment won’t take place for at least a year, but some suggestions have already been brought to the table. Here’s what people are saying needs to be done.
1. Improve access to TTC stations
Some subway stations along the Allen have terrible accessibility for pedestrians; their entrances are located at busy intersections in places that make them awkward to get to on foot. A redesign could make these station entrances more accessible and easier to find.
“There’s a lot of interest in making the intersections at Lawrence and Eglinton work really well for pedestrians getting to and from the transit and trying to work around the conflicts with turning cars,” says Stephen Schijns, manager of infrastructure planning at the City of Toronto.
2. Build a pedestrian pathway between Yorkdale and Wilson
If you’re at Yorkdale Mall and want to get to Wilson Road on foot or bicycle, you have the obstacle of the 401-Allen Road interchange in your way. The only way to get across is to either take the subway one stop, or go all the way over to Dufferin and then head north. This is a tremendous inconvenience for anyone without a car. Adding a path for foot traffic to cross over the 401 would help to support sustainable transportation in the area.
“It’s a freeway-to-freeway interchange designed in the ’60s for that function,” says Schijns of the barrier. “At that time, the city was very different and there was no concept of what we’re working with now.”
3. Make the Allen more like a normal arterial road
“The general sense of things has been to unwind it a little bit, and make it more like a normal arterial,” says Schijns. “Perhaps introduce traffic signals and make the southern end more connected to the neighbourhood.”
“We’ve heard suggestions to allow traffic to distribute and filter out through the corridor rather than running it out to a single spot.”
4. Add more east-west pedestrian crossings and bike lanes
Bridges are few and far between on the Allen. People wanting to cross over face the inconvenience of having to go to the nearest crossing, which could be quite a hike depending on where they’re coming from. Bike lanes would also be a welcome improvement. These additions would help support sustainable modes of transportation and hopefully relieve traffic congestion by getting cars off the road.
“[Bike lanes are] absolutely part of what we would be looking for in improvements,” says Schijns. “This is the 21st century; we talk about sustainable transportation. So cycling-movement connectivity and pedestrian-movement connectivity are very significant aspirations for the corridor and there are lots of ways to do it.”
5. Redesign the Eglinton and Lawrence interchanges
These two connecting intersections are considered among the most challenging in the city for drivers. A redesign of the off ramps is necessary to allow for smoother traffic flow, and to lessen congestion by increasing vehicle throughput.
They’re a nightmare for pedestrians as well, as crossing the road in this area involves traversing a confusing network of traffic signals. A redesign would include public safety as a high priority as well as providing quick passage for drivers.
6. Make better use of open spaces
Along the Allen, there are many vacant areas not being used. Planting trees and turning these zones into proper green spaces would make for a more pleasant user experience and improve air quality.
This Terms of Reference study is only a preliminary planning stage. The City is still open to suggestions from the public so, if you have your own ideas on how to improve the Allen, submit them to email@example.com. For more information, see www.toronto.ca/allenrdstudy.
UPDATE, JUNE 21, 2012: Ward 15 Councillor Josh Colle submitted this letter to The Grid in response to the article above:
Dear Editor/ Mr. Riddell,
Regarding the article ‘Six ways to improve the Allen’ by Chris Riddell, published last Thursday, June 14th, as City Councillor for Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence and as a resident in the area, I am acutely aware of the issues surrounding the Allen Expressway. Though I, too, am frustrated by its inconveniences, safety hazards, and environmental setbacks, it must be recognized that the Allen was designed almost fifty years ago and, notwithstanding the changes that have been made since its construction, it continues to be a remnant of a different era.
My constituents and the citizens of Toronto should know, however, that I am undertaking tremendous efforts in order to mitigate these problems and make the Allen as accessible and as safe as possible for the pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers of the twenty-first century.
Beginning this summer, the City of Toronto, at the request of the community, will be making numerous short-term modifications to the Allen Road at Lawrence Avenue, which is currently considered to be one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. These improvements will not only increase traffic flow for the some 27,000 cars that pass through the intersection daily, but they will also establish clear, controlled crossings for the 4,000 pedestrians that walk along Lawrence Avenue, past the TTC and subway stations, and to the nearby high school, every day. In addition, I have plans underway to improve and revitalize the Ranee Avenue subway station, located underneath the Allen, beginning next summer.
In order to make the city more accessible to cyclists and to encourage environmentally-friendly lifestyles, I have also been working to establish an ‘Allen Road Greenway’, a plan consisting of almost three and a half kilometers of bike routes from Highway 401 to Eglinton Avenue. This proposition promises to be formidable route for cyclists and pedestrians.
These measures, for the time being, should greatly enhance the landscape and the safety of the Allen, but there are still many large-scale, long-term projects that would be advantageous in its improvement. As such, City Council has directed the implementation of the Terms of Reference study, which will eventually provide the necessary groundwork for a full-scale Environmental Assessment, a consultation that will look at options for the Allen. These two undertakings will allow for the gathering of all the information needed to establish a sustainable, long-term plan for this important roadway.
Integral to the success of these projects, however, is that the citizens of Toronto voice their opinions and contribute their invaluable input. It is my hope that through this process, the Allen will be modernized for a twenty-first century Toronto.
Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence