A months-long street renewal project is set to get underway on a major downtown artery this month in order to make way for the expected start of construction on the Ontario Line.
Work on the new subway line is expected to start in 2023 and will require the long-term closure of a stretch of Queen Street near the Eaton Centre.
Because of that work, streetcars will need to divert along Richmond and Adelaide between York and Church streets for at least five years.
Starting this month, the city will begin the work of reinstalling streetcar tracks on Adelaide between Charlotte and York streets so that can happen.
It is essentially the first of what could be a series of disruptions for downtown residents as part of work on the 15.6-kilometre Ontario Line.
At the same time, the city will replace an ageing hundred-year-old watermain which runs along Adelaide between York and Victoria streets.
The cycle track on Adelaide will also be moved from the south to the north side of the street between Bathurst and Parliament streets in order to reduce the need for cyclists and commercial vehicles to share space in that area.
Work is expected to run for four to five months, wrapping up in December.
Once construction starts, travel lanes will be reduced to one shared eastbound lane on Adelaide Street within the active work zones. Cyclists who wish to continue through the work area will need to merge with vehicular traffic in those zones or dismount and walk.
According to the city, work will take place 24 hours seven days a week in order to expedite the project.
The noisiest work, concrete breaking, will occur between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. and is expected to last for the first few days of each phase of construction.
CONSTRUCTION INCONVENIENT, BUT NECESSARY: COUNCILLOR
While many residents might wince when they hear about construction, Spadina Fort York Councillor Joe Mihevc says such projects are in fact a sign of a healthy city.
“The only thing worse than all this development happening is that it doesn’t happen,” Mihevc told CP24.com in an interview.
“Pity the city that sees no construction and doesn’t have to complain about construction-related delays and problems because that’s a city that’s stagnating.”
Mihevc pointed out that “Toronto is booming” and said that roughly a quarter of the 24,000 new housing units recently approved by Toronto City Council are in his ward.
Having previously served as a midtown councillor for almost three decades before being appointed to temporally fill a vacancy left by Joe Cressy’s resignation, Mihevc has a long memory and remembers a time when revitalizing the city’s waterfront was just a dream.
“The waterfront is now a desired place. People are flocking there and they want to buy there and they want to live near there,” he said. “And so apropos to what we’re talking about, that’s why you need to kind of re-figure out a whole bunch of systems.”
When complete, the new Ontario Line will eventually connect the Ontario Science Centre near Eglinton Avenue and Don Mills Road to Exhibition Place at the waterfront, with two stops along King Street — at Corktown and King and Bathurst – and four stops along Queen Street at Moss Park, Yonge Street, University Avenue and Spadina.
But there will be some pains for residents in the meantime. One city staff report released in 2021, in fact, warned that commute times along several downtown arteries could increase by as much as 29 minutes between 2022 and 2029 while construction on the six new Ontario Line stations takes place.
While necessary, Mihevc acknowledges that construction can be an inconvenience and said he well remembers the pain of Midtown residents when the St. Clair right of way project was ongoing.
“First the TTC wanted to just simply renew its track. And then other divisions and departments and agencies say ‘we want in on it.’’
He said the city has gotten better since then at trying to coordinate multiple tasks in order to minimize the disruption and that’s why they are doing the Watermain work while they replace the streetcar tracks.
“There’s nothing worse than the complaint that you get from residents that ‘oh, they were here last year and they dug a hole and they’re here again this year digging another hole.’ So this is trying to get it right and trying to coordinate all the utilities and all the services and getting it right once,” he said.
With bike lanes, a quick one-way route to get to the Don Valley Parkway and an increasing number of large condo towers, Mihevc called Adelaide “an unsung hero” which “has a lot of utility and a lot of uses.”
He said communication with area residents and businesses has already begun and will continue to be a key part of the process.
Mailers went out to area residents last month to inform them about the project and a virtual town hall was held on July 21.
At that meeting, some residents expressed concern about cyclists having to merge with vehicular traffic, something city staff said they would take a look at to see where improvements could be made.
“There has been a public consultation coordinator that has brought people together so it’s been well socialized,” Mihevc said. “People know about it and maybe that’s part of the learnings from previous construction projects.”
He added that when the cycle track is complete, “you’re going to see basically state-of-the-art cycling facilities” including features such as signals and grade separation.
VIRTUAL ‘TRAILER’ MEETINGS TO BE HELD THROUGHOUT
During the work, there may also be temporary water shut off’s, but the city says that they will send out notices beforehand except in the case of an emergency.
Pedestrian access will continue during construction, but there may be diversions to accommodate some of the work.
While Adelaide is used as a popular way to get across the downtown core, the city is advising travellers who don’t have destinations in the area to avoid Adelaide Street altogether during the construction period.
The city says it will be holding virtual ’trailer’ drop-in meetings every other Monday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., starting on Aug. 29 so that members of the public can ask questions and share concerns about the ongoing work.
Work on the Ontario Line is currently slated to be complete by 2028.