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By the numbers: The Union Station revitalization project

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 21, 2013

toronto union stationDeep in the belly of Union Station a major construction project is underway. Workers are digging down through the floor of the basement, expanding and renovating the concourse level to handle the increased demand on the venerable old limestone giant. The miserable train shed is getting a new glass atrium (hooray for natural light) and the TTC is adding a new platform to its station.

When it's finished, subway riders will be able to saunter from the station into the new GO concourse without facing so much as a set of stairs.

toronto union stationOne of the most precarious parts of the build is the creation of a new level below the station where there was previously only dirt. To do this, builders are literally propping up the building's existing support columns on brand new extensions.

The mammoth project is projected to cost around $715.4 million (the original budget was $640 million) and will drastically improve the quality of the busy transit hub. Workers are roughly halfway through the anticipated construction period, so here are some numbers on the project as it currently stands:

  • 2.5 - The area of the dig down in football fields
  • 115,400 - Square feet of space already excavated
  • 193 - Support columns replaced so far
  • 447 - Support columns due for reinforcement or replacement
  • 45 - Truckloads of soil removed from the site daily (600-900 tonnes).
  • 160,000 - Square feet of new retail space
  • 300 - New jobs created
  • 1,271,772 hours - Number of work hours completed so far
  • 30,000 - Square metres of green roof on the new train shed
  • 48 - Number of steel columns in the new glass atrium


Cement truck at worktoronto union stationRecent aerial viewtoronto union stationProjected look of the finished extriortoronto union stationRevitalized GO concoursetoronto union stationNew moat rooftoronto union stationFinished retail concoursetoronto union stationChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto, NORR Architects



Chris / March 21, 2013 at 10:18 am
Can't wait.
Rusty Shackleford / March 21, 2013 at 10:35 am
Only one concern, when will Commuters be back up and running?
Critic / March 21, 2013 at 10:46 am
Silly concept... and backwards. Wouldn't make sense to make the station tracks underground where they would be protected at the lowest level instead and make a shopping centre at the top or street level for easy access for anyone passing by the area?
Anna Avery replying to a comment from Critic / March 21, 2013 at 10:49 am
But wouldn't that require reconfiguring the entire station?
CH replying to a comment from Critic / March 21, 2013 at 11:01 am
There is no way that Metrolinx would have agreed to the massive disruption that such a proposal would entail, plus, lowering the elevation of an entire set of train tracks just so they can be "protected at the lowest level" would mean dropping the whole rail corridor for kilometers in either direction. Pointless. Besides, the train shed is being completely rebuilt. The retail concourse would never be at "street level for easy access" because that's the great hall and head house - the most significant heritage spaces in the station. Is your proposal to turn the great hall into a retail space? I hope not.
... / March 21, 2013 at 11:10 am
Charlie Bravo replying to a comment from Critic / March 21, 2013 at 11:15 am
That would be nice if this were new construction and not already a major rail hub.

Not really realistic IMO.
dc / March 21, 2013 at 11:18 am
Tired of people measuring distances in football fields. I have no idea how long 2.5 football fields are. Why not just use metres like is standard everywhere in the country rather than some idiotic sports analogy?
Ell / March 21, 2013 at 11:30 am
In the "Before and After" pics, I like how there is a real pic of a Go Train surrounded by animation. It makes me think of Monty Python.
Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 11:42 am
The glass atrium train shed would be more amazing if electric trains would be running through it; with all of the diesel trains running through it from GO Transit, the atrium windows might be sooty and dirty within no time. The province of Ontario and GO Transit needed EMU's yesterday, and instead of getting it in time for 2014, will get nothing.
Dan Mc replying to a comment from dc / March 21, 2013 at 11:45 am
It's all about visualization. Not everyone can picture how long 250 yards is, but a strong majority of people can picture the length of a football field x2.5.
the lemur replying to a comment from Dan Mc / March 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm
First of all, yards are for lateral distance.

I don't know where you get 250 yards (= 750 feet) out of 2.5 football field lengths. An NFL football field is 120 yds long (360 feet). Two-and-a-half times that means 900 ft.

In the unlikely event that they mean a CFL field (150 yds), that would be 450 ft x 2.5 = 1125 ft down.

Wait, it says area ... so that means the area of the underground part measures 16,000 sq yd?
Thomas replying to a comment from Critic / March 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Also, placing the tracks underground would require everything to be electrified on every route that GO and VIA run. We would have to electrify the track all the way to Vancouver! All of a sudden, the a building renovation has turned into a trans-continental infrastructure project.
Mommy replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm
And where do you propose they get the electricity for this utopia of EV trains and cars your kind envision in these days of grey outs and black outs and being told to ease the load on the grid?
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Thomas / March 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm
About time that we start doing so.
Todd / March 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Useless revitalization project if they don't put a switch at subway level to allow for possible subway construction heading westbound.

They'll just have to tear the dang thing up again.
Craig replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 01:05 pm
So, we can build the new power plant in your backyard then?

Electrification will happen, as long as we can find a way to pay for it. Considering the opposition to new funding for any kind of transit expansion, I wouldn't hold my breath.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 01:09 pm
From nuclear power, that's where. But, the problem with that is people think that nukes are the spawn of Satan due to years of scaremongering, and so instead of building said nuclear network up to a level that would actually provide the power we need for said electric trains and everything else, the McGuinty administration decided to 'get religious' by embracing wind (and only wind) instead. That, and not acting on building electric rail for one corridor of GO Transit as the citizens of said corridor have asked for, is why we are here, with a beautiful modern train shed made of glass, but no modern trains to house in it.
Alex replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 01:24 pm
It wasn't about environmentalism, it was about money. It's costing billions of dollars just to fix up Darlington and Pickering, plus the huge cost of disposing of the waste. Nuclear is incredibly expensive, but very dependable. Wind is much, much cheaper and easier. If we could find a way to store power effectively, then wind and solar would by far be the best options.
Mommy replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 01:50 pm
Yup, the solution is always easy from an armchair when you're not paying for it.
Craig replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 03:05 pm
Just a small point, but the locomotives that GO uses are state of the art, start of the art diesel, but still state of the art.
Alex replying to a comment from Critic / March 21, 2013 at 03:53 pm
@ Critic: That's called a grade separation, where you change the height of the tracks in order to allow another set of tracks (or a roadway or whatever) to run overtop of or below it. It can be done (in fact, they are doing it right now just west of Union Station at Strachan Ave, and they are also doing it at the West Toronto Diamond). But it can be hellishly complicated, hellishly expensive, and takes a ridiculous amount of money. It is really, really, really hard to do on a working rail line that already has lots of traffic passing through it.

The current Union Station project is a much more practical idea.
stopitman replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 21, 2013 at 05:46 pm
They don't have the money to make the over capacity Lakeshore lines electrified ($1B+), let alone convert all of the corridors to electric, along with facilities to enable freight locomotives to continue to use the same corridors (most of which GO doesn't own). Add the extra money for the locomotives and we're talking about a multi-billion dollar project in initial infrastructure alone.

Sure, it'd be great to have 5 minute service like Paris' RER, but nobody is willing to pay for the 20 year investment (including many transit riders).

I can't wait for Union to be done - the train sheds are dreary and crumbling and stepping into the GO concourse is like entering the 60s/70s.
Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 07:20 pm
Simon says he's going to subsidize it with his spare change so no problem there. He's got ALL the answers, all they need to do is give him a call. I'm sure they'll call ANY minute now!! Well, I have to go now and pack Simon's lunch so he's not late for school tomorrow.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 08:58 pm
Who's more in the armchair here, me, or you, Mommy? I'm pointing out a PRACTICAL type of power that can be used, and you're just trolling now because you don't like what I've proposed SHOULD be used more often by the province. And, I'm not already suggesting anything that's been carried out around the planet, except in places hit by scaremongering about what happened with Dai-Ichi like the province and the city of Toronto. The provincial government should have been trying to build better and newer nuclear power stations yesterday, but of course, money was wasted on the wrong things, and now, here we are, years later, with no electric service, people demanding it in the area that the trains are going through (all they're asking for is ONE corridor to be electrified), and Toronto/Southern Ontario looking backward compared to the rest of the world come 2014 when half of the world will be descending upon it for the Pan American Games.

@Craig: I'm sorry, but the whole thing about said GO trains being state of the art is balderdash, and has been disproved:

'There is no such thing as “clean diesel.” The cleanest standard, Tier 4, is indeed the least polluting form of diesel. But Metrolinx doesn’t intend to use Tier 4 for any of its trains. Metrolinx hopes that the new air-rail link trains will be Tier 3, but these have not yet been purchased and the decision will be in the hands of a private operator. The bottom line is that the majority of train traffic on this corridor will be a combination of dangerous Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 diesels.' (page 2)
Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 09:32 pm
I'm not the one claiming to be an expert, truth is I don't really care. I merely point out that people like you always think they have all the answers and yet you don't seem to be actually building it or paying for someone to build it. It's nice to have big Utopian dreams with imaginary money, especially if it's not YOUR imaginary money, isn't it? Don't post your big scheme on some obscure unknown internet Blog if you want "them" to adopt it, go see them personally since you're such an expert. I'm sure they'll be very VERY impressed and put your ideas into action right away! it.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm
I NEVER said that I did have all the answers, dumbass; those are quite obvious for all to see, and to research, if those who wield power at Metrolinx would care to do so (usually, I'm saying at what you're saying elsewhere in the 'Net in different contexts, and usually I'd agree, but not this time.) This could have been started long time ago pre-Metrolinx, but it seems that nobody in power had, or has, any foresight beyond pleasing FYIGM (Fuck You, I've Got Mine) types like you who think that taxes are a burden and who don't want to pay for things like upgrading infrastructure and public transit and who also only care for bread-and-circuses type thing like new casinos (if I'm wrong about this aspect of you, please let me know.)

Of course, people like you'll get what you want with this and be satisfied, but the rest of us who know that the city and the province can do much better will be disappointed, and we deserve to be.
Mommy / March 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm
Well, you are wrong but then again I'm not surprised at you making assumptions about others. Myself I tend to be grateful for what I do have rather than whine about what I don't or feel entitled to.
Mommy replying to a comment from annakarenina / March 22, 2013 at 01:05 am
Craig replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 22, 2013 at 07:03 am
Simon, you said modern, not clean. GO trains are modern.
human male / March 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm
Mommy is an annoying bitch imo.
human male / March 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm
Hey mommy, you are a bitch.
skube / March 23, 2013 at 04:04 pm
Great post. Please have more updates. Would be great to see an aerial shot of the new train atrium.
Me / March 23, 2013 at 09:29 pm
LOOK!! They're tying Simon to the track!!
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Craig / March 23, 2013 at 10:29 pm
Modem or modern, they still suck, and as the man who wrote an e-book on the history of public transit projects in Toronto said in an interview with the Star, Metrolinx will have to be converting most of GO Transit to EMU's within twenty years.

@Me; Go frack yourself.
Farbige Brautkleider / April 26, 2013 at 09:21 pm
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detriki liznick replying to a comment from Critic / April 3, 2014 at 10:38 am
You have no idea what you're talking about.
detriki liznick replying to a comment from Todd / April 3, 2014 at 10:42 am
This is for the trains, not the subway. By the way, what direction is Kipling station fron Union station?
detriki liznick / April 3, 2014 at 10:54 am
There's asbestos in the plaster at Union Station. It's 5% ACF and the with the leaks getting into the ceilings and walls it's starting to swell and the only thing keeping it from getting airborne is the lead paint sealing it in. This project will not meet the 2015 deadline.
Commuter / April 3, 2014 at 11:03 am
the build quality on track level is hopelessly poor.

the concrete has rusted. the pillars are all scuffed up, and nobody is ever working there.

seems like the track level work has completely stopped, and I'm sure this project will end up in court. absolutely shoddy construction.

and another thing. most of the stairwells going from track level to the lower concourse were not designed for current traffic volume. creates massive bottlenecks. they have essentially converted emergency exits into full-service stair wells.

piss poor in every way.

embarrassing, but totally Toronto in every way.
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