union station toronto

Toronto just declared construction complete at Union Station but lol yeah right

Today in things I'll wait a hot minute before celebrating, City of Toronto officials have announced what they call the "completion of the Union Station Revitalization Project."

"After years of extensive work on this difficult project, the Union Station revitalization is now complete, and the last piece of the revitalization — the Bay Concourse — is opening to the public today," said Mayor John Tory during a press conference on Tuesday.

"Union Station is now ready to more completely welcome people back to downtown Toronto and back to work as we move ahead with the reopening."

After more than a decade of loud, dirty, disorienting construction at North America's busiest transit hub, you'd think that citizens would be thrilled to learn that the project had finally wrapped.

And yet, we remain skeptical. Can you blame us?

Approved in 2009, twelve years ago, the revitalization project was originally scheduled to wrap sometime in 2014.

There have been countless setbacks, delays and dollars-spent-over-budget since that time in an attempt to bring the now 94-year-old heritage structure up to meet the demands of modern day commuters (some 300,000 of which are said to pass through the station every day).

What was estimated to cost $640 million back in the aughts has so far swelled to more than $824 million, some of which was chipped in by the federal and provincial governments (they contributed $164 million and $191.8 million, respectively).

Despite all the dust and drama though, the city really has managed to spiffy up Union Station. Many parts of the building which had long been too small or too gross (*cough* the food court) pre-renovation are now state-of-the-art facilities.

"Union Station is now enhanced as a landmark destination of the highest design quality," announced the city when proclaiming the project complete on Tuesday. "Not only is the station the Greater Toronto Area's transit nucleus, it is also a cherished community space and a budding retail hub featuring a diverse mix of vendors."

According to the city, the revitalization project has resulted in more than triple the original size of GO Concourse space for commuters, some 160,000 square feet of additional retail space, a brand new food court, and new glass moat covers over Front, York and Bay Streets, among other upgrades.

It looks like Tory and his teams were just waiting for the massive new Bay Concourse (formerly a remarkably ugly GO concourse) to open in order to declare the project "complete."

Similar to the clean and modern York Concourse, finished in 2015, the newly-opened Bay Concourse is absolutely massive at more than 60,000 square feet, at least 50 per cent larger than the original. It connects to the admittedly-pretty nice retail area under Bay as well as the TTC and new food court.

In other words, it's great — props to the City of Toronto and Metrolinx  — but it is not the last piece of the harrowing puzzle that is the construction at Union Station.

The city itself admitted in Tuesday's release that "minor updates and cosmetic work will continue until the end of July 2021, at which point the project will conclude."

"This minor work will not impact customers and patrons visiting Union Station," writes the city, which may be true — but you know what will? New construction projects at Union Station.

The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr reports that Metrolinx is now "undertaking major work to increase the capacity of GO service, which includes reconfiguring station platforms, upgrading elevators and staircases, and constructing a new concourse at the south end of the station."

"I don't want people to be alarmed by the fact we've got more work to do, but we have more work to do," said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster on Tuesday, per The Star.

The new round of construction, separate from the revitalization project but also taking place at Union Station, is expected to take eight to 10 years.

That's not a joke. I'm sorry.

Lead photo by

John Tory

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