6:30 pm rush hour traffic on Port Union Road

Input to the Class EA

Following is the letter sent to the City of Toronto in response to their open invitation for community input on the project.

Re: Port Union Road Class Environmental Assessment Study

There are a number of things with which I take issue over the present process and its outcomes to date.

Information available from Toronto's website - "Road Classification System - A Consolidated Report" was reviewed, specifically the information available at:

  • www.city.toronto.on.ca/transportation/appendix3.pdf
  • www.city.toronto.on.ca/transportation/roadlist.pdf

    This information makes clear that Port Union is a minor arterial road. The tables appended to the report make clear that the present number of lanes meets the criterion for minor arterial roads. Thus there is no reason to proceed with widening Port Union Road on the basis that it somehow does not meet the City's criteria.

    Drawing again from City of Toronto documentation, Meadowvale, Centennial, Lawson, and Military Trail are all classed as 'collectors'. Highway 2A is classed 'expressway'. Toronto's own standard calls for grade separation for intersection of collectors and expressways, i.e. expressways to be free-flowing. Thus it is not correct to suggest that extending Meadowvale to Highway 2A with an at-grade junction is an appropriate solution. Clearly, it would require grade-separation. I submit that the costs of the grade separation would place Meadowvale/2A in the same cost range as Centennial/2A and Lawson/Military Trail options, and that therefore any continued EA process should have included (or excluded) all three.

    I note that the 'do nothing' alternative was not carried forward for further consideration on the grounds that some 'deficiency' existed and therefore 'something must be done'. My concerns and comments over the proposed project deal however with whether there is any need for it, or any benefit associated with it, to the extent that the project should proceed in any form.

    The foundation for any traffic solution must be based on proper assessment of the traffic situation, rather than simply be the inevitable outcome of a process. You advised me that there had been three studies that had recommended widening Port Union Road, specifically:

  • Highland Creek Area Transportation Study, Marshall Macklin Monaghan, May 1986
  • East Point Villages Traffic Impact Assessment, Cansult Engineering Limited, September 1990
  • Bramalea Limited Lawrence/Port Union Residential Development Traffic Impact Statement, DS-Lea Associates, September 1990

    My own observations, based on seventeen years' daily use of Port Union Road during peak hours is that there is never a traffic jam, and that any 'congestion' is far less obvious than on virtually every arterial road anywhere else in Toronto during peak periods. As local examples, Lawrence Avenue/Morningside and Morningside/Kingston Road are extremely congested during peak periods.

    I submit that data acquired during studies undertaken sixteen years ago and twelve years ago are unlikely to represent the current traffic reality. I note that the published record of the February Open House reports the consultant referring to traffic counts northbound north of Island Road. That traffic count inevitably includes traffic exiting Island Road and going north, as well as traffic exiting Highway 2A (Port Union off-ramp) and going north. As such, any reliance of the number reported by the consultant as representing traffic on the three-lane section of Port Union Road (south of Island Road) is fatally flawed, and inevitably overstates reality.

    There are areas in East Scarborough where worse traffic congestion exists and is clearly visible. If Toronto intends to solve traffic problems, then these solutions should be prioritized. Any rational prioritization would place widening Port Union Road (from three lanes to four) well down the list of projects for which a business case could be made to validate the expenditure of millions of dollars of taxpayers money.

    If there is a need or desire to invest many millions of dollars of taxpayers money in this area, then there are a number of viable projects that would provide ongoing benefits to the community far beyond the proposed widening of Port Union Road. Obvious examples are the acquisition of additional land for the Village Common at the base of Port Union Road; the restoration of the old Morrish Store at Meadowvale and Kingston Road; or accelerating construction of the waterfront trail. No doubt Councillor Moeser would be pleased to advise you of other community benefit projects that exist within Ward 44, and for which he cannot obtain funding.

    If nevertheless, Toronto decides that widening Port Union Road is the project that best serves the taxpayers, then that project should not proceed in any way until after the business case for the project is proven, after the costs and benefits of the project are fully assessed and substantiate the requirement for this project. Reliance of traffic data 12 years old and more, and which may be flawed as discussed above, is no basis on which to proceed with an investment of millions of dollars of the taxpayers money.

    Frankly, the investment of millions of dollars to solve what is evident by observation as a transient minor inconvenience at worst would be a fiscally irresponsible action. Surely, road users in Toronto know and understand that traffic during peak periods is higher than outside peak periods. Surely, road users in Toronto do not expect their tax dollars to be used to finance the billions of dollars for road improvements that will eliminate all traffic problems in the City of Toronto. To undertake an unproven, unwanted, and unneeded project such as widening Port Union Road is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide input to the process.

    Yours truly,

    A.J. Bowers

    copies to Councillors Moeser and Soknacki, MPP Steve Gilchrist, and representatives of CCRA, WRCA, and PUVHA

    Note: subsequently, I provided additional input as I realised there were even more compelling arguments as to why the ancient traffic surveys were no longer acceptable as a basis for justifying this project.

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