Tomorrow (7 December 2021) East Gwillimbury Council will resume its debate on getting the 15-minute all-day two-way GO Train service extended north from Aurora where it is currently planned to terminate. 

Councillors last discussed the issue over a year ago - in September 2020 - when they called on Metrolinx to accelerate plans to bring the fast trains to East Gwillimbury.

Someone heard them.

On 12 August 2021 Metrolinx confirmed it planned to extend the 15-minute, two-way, all-day electrified GO train service past Aurora GO Station to Bradford GO in the future. This was a major breakthrough. But the commitment is open-ended. There is no timeline. 

Metrolinx says the change is possible 

“thanks to further study and optimization of service plans” (we wait for the details)

but cautions:

“while this commitment to service expansion includes potential upgrades such as adding segments of double tracking to the corridor, we would welcome further discussions with The Town of East Gwillimbury and with York Region on road-rail grade separations through the service area.” 

East Gwillimbury needs Newmarket - and we need them

As we know, East Gwillimbury can’t get a fast train service unless we get one here in Newmarket. It's a team effort. The two municipalities should be working in tandem.

And that means tackling the thorny issue of grade separation head on. We need engineering and technical studies to be commissioned asap to show us what can feasibly be done – and at what cost.

Now is the time for East Gwillimbury (and Newmarket) to press the case with York Region which is, as I tap this out, putting together its Transportation Master Plan which tries to anticipate future transport needs and infrastructure. It is the Region's blueprint and what appears in print matters.

Mapping and study areas

Newmarket Mayor, John Taylor, has urged the Region’s Transport Planners to map all possible grade separations in the Master Plan, identifying the locations as study areas. 

Last month he warned his colleagues at the Region:

“We are all discovering that grade separation in relation to the 15 minutes service is going to be a huge issue for all of us. And I think the implications financially are massive.”

He also expressed concerns about the impact of grade separation which:

“can change the streetscape of an area of significance dramatically - depending on what engineering design is finalized.”

All true.

But we need the engineering studies on grade separation now - not in ten year's time when we are gridlocked.

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Update on 8 December 2021: Yesterday, the correspondence from Metrolinx on the proposed 15 minute service to Bradford went before East Gwillimbury Council.  The whole thing was over in 2 minutes with no questions.

No-one queried how it was possible to get a 15 minute service to East Gwillimbury without things happening downstream in Newmarket. This is what the lead staff person, Mike Molinari, told councillors:

“The first memo is an update with regards to Metrolinx GO expansion program and GO Rail electrification transit project assessment process which is also known as the TPAP. 

That's good news. Metrolinx will be extending 15-minutes all-day two-way electrified go train service through East Gwillimbury through to Bradford GO Station. I look forward to that. That will serve the town very well in the coming years.

Also was good news the grade separation on Green Lane for the rail line is being actively discussed with York Region and Metrolinx for planning and delivery. That's not confirmed that it's happening, but discussions are dancing with respect to that and we will make sure that we keep Council apprised of the outcomes on that.

We will continue to meet with Metrolinx and the region and we've actually asked for Metrolinx to provide regular project updates to us and come to council periodically to provide updates on this very important initiative. Happy to answer any questions."

East Gwillimbury councillors could try a little harder to engage with the issue.

Click "read more" for John Taylor at York Region's Committee of the Whole on 11 November 2021 on grade separation.

Grade Separation 11 Nov 2021. York Region Committee of the Whole:

Mayor Taylor: I met with Brian previously about this. I really want to highlight it here as well for other staff. Currently the proposed road network map indicates grade separations, both as capital programme and prioritized. 

I guess what I would say is… My understanding is that, at this point, both Metrolinx and the Region, and certainly the lower tier municipalities, are at the very early stages of understanding what grade separations would look like and even the merit of them at different locations – or the level of merit in different locations.

And so, for example, my concern here is that Davis Drive does not have a grade separation indication on it at all, of any nature. 

And it would seem to me that even other locations, whether one would occur or not - and the reasons and the rationale for that, is very much in its infancy. And so I guess I'm asking that the Davis Drive location at least be indicated as a grade separation study area. Or that they all be - or many more of them be - indicated as grade separation study areas.

Because this seems to be saying to the public: this is going to happen here and this is not going to happen here.

And in some cases I have a feeling it may not even happen in some places (where it is) indicated and it may happen in some that are unindicated.

We don't know that yet… but I guess I'm just trying to find a way to indicate the nature of where grade separation is at (and) its maturity in this process. 

Ann-Marie Carroll: Acting Commissioner of Transportation Services: Thank you Mayor Taylor. Actually, Brian and I were just talking about this earlier today. And I think the approach that we are going to take is exactly how you are describing it.

We are identifying that there will likely be X number of grade separations required during, you know, this 30 year period. And we will continue to hold a certain number of grade separations within our budget. But we recognize that there needs to be some continued analysis done to identify exactly which of these locations are going to require a grade separation.

Mayor Taylor: And so, on mapping, will all the ones there, and maybe some more, be indicated as potential grade separations?  And then there will be a sense that they may be either budget constrained or need the result of a study of some sort to indicate whether it is even advisable? Is that where it is going? 

Ann-Marie Carroll: Acting Commissioner of Transportation Services: That’s correct.

Mayor Taylor: OK. The only thing I would say in closing on this is that I think we are all discovering that grade separation in relation to the 15 minutes service is going to be a huge issue for all of us. And I think the implications financially are massive and how much burden they try to put on us.

But the second part is just in terms of how it can change the streetscape of an area of significance dramatically - depending on what engineering design is finalized.

So, this is something I am really looking for support from the Region on…  in helping the lower tier municipalities understand this fully and make sure we are working closely with Metrolink so that they (too) understand our concerns and needs in relation to this topic. Thank you.