A contentious plan to remove two lanes of traffic along a stretch of Yonge Street in North York will be up for debate today during a meeting of the city’s public works committee.

Staff have recommended that Yonge Street be reduced from six to four lanes between Sheppard and Finch Avenues in order to accommodate a bike lane, wider sidewalks and a landscaped median.

The project carries an estimated price tag of $51 million though staff contend that the reconstruction of Yonge Street will have to be carried out over the next five to 10 years anyway.

They say that even if the city were to reconstruct the corridor “without any improvements to the steetscape quality or safety” it would still carry a cost of $24 to $29 million.

“We don’t just want to put new concrete in place of the old concrete. We really need to be imaginative and create a main street culture there,” Ward 23 Coun. John Filion, who represents the area, told CP24 earlier this week. “It is the only part of Yonge Street that has six lanes of traffic. All through downtown it is two lanes in each direction and even north of Steeles (Avenue) in York Region they are going to go to four lanes. It is ridiculous to have this six-lane highway running through this area and really stopping it from becoming a main street with all the good things that come with that.”

Staff also considered placing bike lane on parallel street

The staff report was initially tabled in May but the public works committee opted not to vote on its contents at the time and instead asked staff to assess the possibility of installing the proposed bike lane along either Doris Avenue or Beecroft Road, allowing them to maintain six lanes of traffic along the Yonge corridor.

In the updated report, staff say that while installing the bike lane on Doris Avenue or Beecroft Road would still “support a vibrant urban environment on Yonge Street by providing improved sidewalks and road safety” it would not present the opportunities as their initial proposal,

Staff say that reducing the lanes of traffic along Yonge “provides the best support for

vibrancy” and would also present “better opportunities to integrate with important public spaces along Yonge Street such as Mel Lastman Square.”

Not all councillors, however, share that sentiment.

In a statement issued early Friday morning, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said that reducing Yonge Street to four lanes of traffic in North York would be “devastating to the community.”

He said that the plan would only “exacerbate the congestion that commuters are already experiencing” along the corridor.

“Despite all the objections both in and outside of the community, Councillor John Filion continues to push this insane plan forward,” Mammoliti said. “If we do not make our message loud and clear, this plan will be rammed down our throats and destroy the heart of North York.”

It should be noted that the staff report cites traffic modeling data which suggests that commute times along Yonge will only increase by one to two minutes as a result of removing two lanes from the roadway.

“There is unused capacity on the service roads Doris and Beecroft and on parallel arterial and collector streets. Some traffic will divert to Doris, Beecroft, Bathurst, Bayview or further away, balancing performance across the network,” the report says.