Ontario Superior Court of Justice grants interim injunction to halt tree removal

Rendering of future Ontario Line Osgoode Station entrance on Osgoode Hall grounds. (Metrolinx image)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Metrolinx’s plan to remove trees at Osgoode Hall in Toronto has been halted until at least Feb. 10, after an Ontario Superior Court justice granted an interim injunction on Sunday.

Crews were reported to be cutting some limbs from the centuries-old trees before Metrolinx agreed to temporarily pause the removal work on Saturday afternoon, ahead of the court hearing.

“We met with the Law Society of Ontario 17 times prior to the start of work to avoid unnecessary delays that will cause significant financial consequences to taxpayers and commuters,” Metrolinx said in a statement following the ruling. “We look forward to resolving this matter quickly, getting this new subway built and serving nearly 400,000 passengers every day.”

The Build Ontario Line Differently (BOLD) Coalition, a coalition of groups opposed to work on the Ontario Line, responded to the injunction with a statement on Twitter.

“Ordinary citizens, let alone city hall or institutions like the law society, should not have to go to court to be heard. This is a wake-up call that Metrolinx’s so-called ‘public consultation’ lacks integrity and their behaviour is no longer trustworthy.”

The coalition is fighting to prevent Metrolinx from cutting the historic trees and says the next step is to meet with city councillors this week.

Metrolinx has said that the tree removal is necessary.

“When building a transformational project like the Ontario Line, careful planning and consideration go into every decision Metrolinx makes,” officials said in a statement. “Building a new subway line through Canada’s largest city means unavoidable impacts to things like trees, buildings, and roads, and Metrolinx makes every effort to mitigate those impacts.

Removing trees on the Osgoode Hall grounds would allow for the construction of a new Ontario Line station.

“This was not a decision Metrolinx made lightly, and it was only made after the agency explored multiple other options to ensure the site was the best option moving forward.”

“Recognizing the space constraints at this intersection, the northeast corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue is key – there is no other space here where a connection to Line 1 can be built,” Metrolinx stated.

According to a project update, a “keyhole” – or a construction shaft – needs to be built to allow for the excavation and construction of what will ultimately be a large underground complex, and the southwest section of the Osgoode Hall grounds is the only space that is able to accommodate the development.

A recent independent analysis commissioned by the City of Toronto supports Metrolinx’s plans for creating a new Ontario Line connection on the Osgoode Hall grounds.

One of two new station entrance buildings will be located there, directly lining up with the westbound streetcar stop.

“Some transit advocates have suggested moving this construction from the northeast corner of the intersection to the middle of University Avenue, however this option was ruled out due to the potential impacts on existing Line 1 subway service,” Metrolinx said.

“Excavating immediately overtop of the existing subway tunnels under University Avenue would mean shutting down Line 1 subway service for several years and drastically impacting traffic on one of the city’s major roadways, which connects to several major hospitals.

“There are also numerous power, gas, and telecommunications lines under the street that would need to be avoided, which ruled out this option.”

Metrolinx is “working with partners to protect as many mature trees as possible and to develop plans for beautifying and restoring the space after construction with new vegetation and landscaping.

“We want to help create a more connected, sustainable and accessible city – one that gives more people more opportunities to thrive and succeed,” said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster. “There will be some hard decisions along the way, but we are doing everything we can to ease impacts as we work to bring long-term benefits to the people of Toronto.”



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