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Woodbine to fund new GO station at its racetrack

Don Wall
Woodbine to fund new GO station at its racetrack
METROLINX — The new Woodbine GO station will be built by Woodbine Entertainment at an estimated cost of between $75 million and $90 million.

Queen’s Park, Metrolinx and Woodbine Entertainment have announced a plan to build a new GO station near Woodbine Racetrack in the Etobicoke community of Toronto with Woodbine footing the entire bill.

Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, said at the March 6 announcement onsite it was expected the cost of the new station will be in the $75- to $90-million range. Woodbine is currently undergoing a major expansion with two new hotels, a new casino, a new 5,000-seat concert venue and other commercial and retail uses planned with a future residential component also contemplated.

Lawson called it “the most important development project in all of Canada” and said the new transit station would significantly enhance the value of the development.

“We are sitting on 700 acres of land here,” he said. “The value of bringing mass transit to the incremental value of the land and the development potential ultimately brings in the revenue streams to sustain the horse racing industry so that’s effectively what’s in it for us.”

The existing Etobicoke North GO station to the south would be discontinued. The station is on the Kitchener GO line connecting to Union station.

Metrolinx president and CEO Phil Verster said there is a possibility a new stop on the UP Express line may be incorporated into the new Woodbine station.

Lawson said employment and user growth potential with the new station and the Woodbine expansion are vast. There are currently 6,000 workers daily at the site with 25,000 or 30,000 visitors to the racetrack daily on weekends, and that is without mass transit. Woodbine expects there to be 12- to 14-million users per year within the next five years, and Lawson said that is before new institutional and residential building expected to be undertaken in five to 10 years.

An Initial Business Case plan studying the feasibility of the new station was released by Metrolinx last November and it also contemplated an extension of the Finch West LRT line from Humber College to Pearson International Airport. Verster said Metrolinx has been contemplating a new Woodbine GO station since 2012, when plans to take the UP Express line under the 401 were being developed.

“Since 2012, when the first work was started to be done to figure out how to get underneath the 401 and to the airport with UP Express, there was an intent to build a line through a new tunnel underneath the 401 which would run through Etobicoke North,” he said. “And it was always going to require Etobicoke North to be replaced.

“By aligning interests with the development of Woodbine with the railway, this was the opportunity to make this change.”

Ontario Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek said the partnership plan was similar to one announced for the Mimico GO station on the Lakeshore line in October, in which the developer Vandyk agreed to upgrade that station in exchange for air development rights.

Yurek said the transit-oriented development approach in partnership with the private sector was an example of how the provincial government intended to reduce traffic gridlock while creating new jobs and housing and cutting costs for taxpayers.

“This new GO station at Woodbine and the development around here is great news for GO transit riders and this community,” said Yurek.

Local City Councillor Michael Ford said the first stage of the development would create 4,500 new jobs and would inject billions of dollars into the economy of the airport employment zone, which is the second largest employment zone in the country.

Verster said the timeline was for Woodbine to procure a contractor and begin work on the project “as soon as possible.”

Woodbine Racetrack lies north of the planned new station, and north of the racetrack is Woodbine Mall. Humber College, the University of Guelph at Humber and Etobicoke General Hospital are located 3.3 kilometres north of the station site.

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