lake shore traffic

Toronto reaches new level of gridlock as drivers forced to sit in traffic for 3 hours at a time

Getting around downtown Toronto by car has never been easy. Heck, getting around at all by any mode of transportation can be a nightmare, even on the best of days, thanks to road closures, adverse weather and the sheer volume of people who make their way into and out of this city every day.

Never before, though, have I witnessed gridlock been so intensely frustrating — not even on the 401 near Mississauga — than what's been happening in recent weeks on Lake Shore Boulevard between Yonge and Cherry Streets.

With parts of The Gardiner Expressway now demolished, "continuous" construction is slated to take place along the eastbound Lake Shore Boulevard on-ramp at Jarvis until 2023.

This work started in earnest more than a year ago, in August of 2021, and anyone who's tried commuting through the downtown core using either of the two major thoroughfares at rush hour since then can tell you that... it's a problem.

The already pretty-impactful problem, which involves several different projects, turned into a full-on crisis recently when four lanes of Lake Shore were closed off for the replacement of a 4.5-kilometre gas pipeline.

"Drivers are advised to avoid traveling on Lakeshore Boulevard westbound, from Cherry Street to Yonge Street, as sections in this stretch are reduced to one lane for utility construction," said the City of Toronto in a statement earlier this week.

"Construction has reduced Lake Shore Blvd West to one lane between Yonge St. and York St. creating significant congestion," said Enbridge Gas, the company responsible for replacing the pipeline, on Wednesday. "We apologize for the inconvenience."

All lanes impacted by Enbridge's work were scheduled to be open by Thursday night, though the city's road restrictions & closures database now indicates that the pipeline project will be complete by Saturday, Nov. 19.

In the meantime, frustrated drivers — many who were unaware that this work was being done — are finding themselves stuck under a crumbling expressway for hours upon hours at a time, unable to do anything but wait (or perform an illegal maneuver out of desperation.)

Earlier this week, CityNews' Tina Yazdani spoke to some of the trapped drivers on Lake Shore Boulevard during rush hour. Some told her that they'd been waiting in traffic for as many as three hours, which is absolutely insane given that the entire stretch takes only seven minutes to walk.

While most people understand the need for infrastructure repair and construction projects, nobody can figure out why the City of Toronto didn't better-coordinate all of this work.

"I go past this stretch every day and it's a complete cluster f*ck, completely due to incompetence at @cityofToronto, who are completely oblivious to how traffic flows in downtown Toronto," wrote one Twitter user this week of the Lake Shore situation. "It didn't used to be this way, but the city created the problem." 

"Basically, they intentionally removed a major onramp to the Gardiner Expressway (directly above), so now all traffic from the east has to go on Lakeshore. In addition, they've had constant construction on Lakeshore for about 2 years, reducing a 4 lane street down to 1," continued Charlie Kilo. 

"And of course, it all could have been avoided if @cityoftoronto hadn't removed important freeway access points like the Lakeshore onramp or the York Bay Yonge exit. Complete cluster f*ck."

In what might be the most frustrating aspect of the entire situation, dozens more closures along Lake Shore and The Gardiner are planned in the years ahead, some of them for months (if not years) at a time.

On Lake Shore, specifically, a westbound lane at Jarvis is closed from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily for "traffic mitigation." From late February until early April, two westbound lanes of the thoroughfare will be closed from Cherry Street to Carlaw Avenue "to facilitate the reconstruction of the Don River Bridge."

Important stuff, to be sure, but the proliferation of road closures due to major construction projects seems to be getting on the nerves of everyone in Toronto more lately than ever... perhaps because there's so darned much of it, both now and scheduled in the years to come.

The Enbridge-related closures will soon pass, but it's unlikely Lake Shore Boulevard will become much more tolerable in the near future; additional work on Lake Shore between Cherry and Parliament streets isn't slated to be done until the end of the year.

Lead photo by

Jason Pereira


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