Monday, December 12, 2005

Top Five Threats: Infrastructure

This article is a continuation of the Top Five Threats story thread started last month.

The Don valley has the distinction of being the most central geographical feature in Toronto. Unfortunately this has produced a legacy of being the most frequent host for all the stuff the city doesn't want to move through its neighbourhoods, namely roads and railways. There are also pipelines, hydro-electric towers and sewers that lace the valley from the harbour up to Steeles. There is also 'soft' infrastructure in the form of two snow dump sites and city works yards. Let's not forget about the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant and the Police Dog Training Compound. Also some miscellaneous structures such as service roads, old landfill sites, weirs in the the river, culverts and concrete lined channels, etc.

Here's a summary of what the valley faces:

  • Don Valley Parkway: it enters the valley south of the 401 and except for a short respite at Eglinton it dominates the lower Don

  • Bayview Extension: enters the valley at the south end of Leaside it occupies most of the west side of the valley.

  • CN/CP railway lines: entering the valley near Eastern Ave, the railways don't exit until around Lawrence.

  • Enbridge gas pipeline: enters the valley at Bayview and Gerrard and continues north through most of the valley.

  • Transcontinental Oil Pipeline (TCPL): another pipeline runs underneath the valley but is currently decommissioned. They never removed the pipe so there's no guarantee that it won't be reused.

  • Hydro-electric corridor: a line of towers snakes north from the waterfront then veers east through the Taylor Massey Creek ravine.

  • Various sewers and city owned pipes: the valley is interlaced with a variety of storm and sanitary sewers, as well as some electrical conduits.

City infrastructure isn't so much a threat as it is an impediment. One of our priorities is to try and restore the valley to a more natural state. It becomes very difficult to do this if the available land is already occupied by roads and railways. For example, the section south of Riverdale Park is known as the 'Don Narrows'. Here the river is confined to a straight channel lined by steel and concrete embankments. It would be nice to try and restore some meanders which would renaturalize the banks of the river and help to slow down the water during peak flow periods. Unfortunately this is difficult to do because it is constrained by highways and railways on both sides.

Roads are also an impediment to wildlife. Now that deer are making there way into the Lower Don, they are finding out the hard way that roads are not the safest place to be.

If the above list is not bad enough the city is thinking of building yet another road in the valley. It is actually the last vestige of the Leslie Street extension, an obsolete plan that would have extended Leslie south to Bayview. Now it is called the Redway Road extension and is being proposed as a bus only road that would run from Millwood Road to Bayview. This is part of a larger plan to improve transit in the Don Valley Corridor. The Task Force views this as a Trojan Horse. Once it is built there will be serious pressure to open it to cars as well.

Faced with these obstacles the future of the valley looks pretty bleak. However things are changing, slowly, within the city. It is unlikely that any new infrastructure (aside from Redway Road) will ever be proposed for the valley. Also the Task Force has prodded the city into keeping an open mind about valley use alternatives. A recent report investigated alternatives to using the valley as a place to dump snow. While the Don may not benefit much by this new thinking it will certainly have a beneficial impact on Toronto's other river systems, namely, the Rouge, the Humber, and Highland Creek. Maybe we should rename the Task Force to Bring Back the Don to the Task Force to Bring Intelligent Planning to the City.


Anonymous said...

Maybe we should rename the Task Force to Bring Back the Don to the Task Force to Bring Intelligent Planning to the City.


Anonymous said...

Not everything the Task Force does is intelligent either. But good idea.