ontario line

Ontario Line construction will be such a mess that Toronto will need new streetcar tracks

The Province of Ontario officially broke ground on its eponymous new transit line in Toronto this week, with the 16 km, 15-stop, $11 billion project marking the biggest subway expansion in Canadian history.

Though there has already been a fair share of headaches associated with the route — from expropriation and noise concerns to protests against its above-ground portions to the creation of physical storefronts just to handle the outpouring of complaints and questions — the huge benefit that it will provide GTA residents is undeniable, and the work is going ahead.

Of course, such a mammoth undertaking will mean years of construction, which will necessitate complete closures of some of the city's busiest intersections for years.

And, given the many-times-extended timeline of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line (which is finally actually near completion), residents worry that the inconveniences of the work will last much longer than planned.

It has now been confirmed that parts of the city will be a complete mess until 2029, much longer than what were initially slated to be closures of around four-and-a-half years, and the city has just released more details about how, exactly, these closures will work.

While roadways and sidewalks will be temporarily (but long-term) closed around areas like Queen and Parliament, Queen and Yonge, Queen and University, Queen and Spadina, King and Bathurst, traffic will have to be diverted and safety ensured in line with the city's Vision Zero campaign to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

Part of this plan will be keping bike paths open around all but the Queen-Yonge stop of the line during construction despite the fact that curb lanes will be blocked off.

"With the curb lane closures in place, people cycling at the Ontario Line King-Bathurst, Queen-Spadina, Moss Park and Corktown Stations will continue to share the available streetcar lane with the general traffic," a new city report writes, adding that proper signage and pavement markings encouraging drivers to share the road will be installed.

A swath of Queen Street, though, will be fully closed, meaning that road, bike and foot traffic will be diverted to alternative routes.

This will also apply to TTC vehicles, which will mean all-new streetcar tracks installed on those routes to accommodate them.

York Street will receive not only new bike lanes to compensate for the closure of Queen, but also new tracks between Queen and Adelaide for diverting streetcars around the closure spanning from Bay to Victoria.

The construction company will also be tasked with ensuring that all bike lanes and new accessible, protected pedestrian pathways are free from building debris.

It will also have to present "a vulnerable road user strategy to ensure that pedestrians and people cycling are protected" throughout the work, during which tons of work trucks will be entering and exiting various sites.

Metrolinx and the company completing the work also vow to provide "an accessible, responsive complaints process" to manage any issues and disruptions that may arise as a result of the work.

And, given the construction's length and scope, there are sure to be many.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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