A section of Queen Street may be closed for nearly half a decade to allow for the construction of a new subway stop in the heart of downtown Toronto, The Star has learned.

Metrolinx says the proposed closure between Bay and Victoria streets would last from approximately May 2023 to November 2027, and is necessary for the complex work required to build an Ontario Line station underneath TTC’s existing Queen subway stop.

Drivers in both directions would be prohibited from using the approximately 280-meter stretch of Queen, which is close to major shopping malls like the Eaton Center and the Hudson Bay flagship store, and major institutions like St. Michael’s Hospital and Old City Hall. James Street would also be closed, but north-south car traffic on Bay, Yonge and Victoria streets would not be blocked. TTC’s 501 Queen tram would be forced to make a long-term detour.

Although Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees traffic in the GTA, is leading the construction of the Ontario Line, extended road closures require city council approval. Metrolinx says it hopes to take its plan to councilors in November.

The agency says that while building a new metro stop in such a dense area will inevitably present challenges, it will also generate significant benefits. The 15.6-kilometer Ontario line is expected to serve up to 388,000 trips per day by 2041.

Malcolm MacKay, Metrolinx program sponsor for Ontario Line, said in an interview that the agency is consulting with the city, TTC and local business groups to minimize the impacts of the shutdown and will keep the public well informed so those affected have time to adjust. . .

“That’s the goal, to give us enough clue to implement this correctly, communicate it properly and make people aware of what is happening so they can make their plans,” MacKay said.

MacKay said Metrolinx generally avoids closing streets during station construction by using nearby available properties to drill below the surface and “extract” the new stop from below. But that is not possible in this case because the new Queen Street station will be under a narrow right-of-way surrounded by dense commercial and office buildings.

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“It’s probably one of our toughest stations because it’s so restricted,” MacKay said.

Metrolinx plans to build another six stops on the Ontario Line downtown, but expects that they will only require lane reductions, not total closures.

Softening the impact of Queen’s closure could prove difficult. Although traffic volumes and transit use have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, prior to the crisis, the city recorded more than 10,000 car trips on Queen, east of Yonge, during a typical eight-year period. hours during the week. The 501 Queen streetcar carried more than 55,000 people a day.

The effects could be felt in the center of the city. MacKay said construction of the station is expected to add about five minutes to car travel on nearby east-west routes such as King, Dundas, Richmond and Adelaide streets, an increase of about six percent. The tram service delays would be similar.

Protracted construction of transit in other parts of Toronto, such as on Eglinton Avenue, where Metrolinx has been building the Crosstown LRT for the past decade, has dealt a financial blow to independent local businesses.

But MacKay said the effect of Queen’s construction on major retailers near Yonge and Queen shouldn’t be as significant. This is because pedestrians will still be able to access the stores via pathways through the construction site and the PATH underground network, and the parking lots will remain open. Centralized loading docks serving shopping malls will not be blocked.

“There should be very little effect on those businesses,” MacKay predicted.

The Line 1 subway will remain in service during the construction of the new Ontario Line station at Queen. But to allow streetcar service to continue operating, Metrolinx and the TTC are working on a plan to divert 501 Queen cars south on York and Church streets. Westbound streetcars would detour through Richmond, and eastbound vehicles would travel through Adelaide.

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The detour would require new roads to be established in York and Adelaide. Although the streetcars would return to their usual route on Queen after the closure, the new tracks, which Metrolinx agreed to pay for, would remain. That would provide TTC with more flexibility for detours caused by traffic collisions or planned events like the Toronto International Film Festival.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the diversion would add time to passenger travel and give them a longer walk to and from destinations on Queen, but is preferable to alternatives such as using shuttle buses.

He said the agency is working with the city and Metrolinx to “ensure that the impacts on TTC’s services and inconvenience to our clients are minimized.” A report to the agency board is expected in the next month or two.

The $ 11 billion Ontario Line is the centerpiece of the Ontario PC government’s $ 28.5 billion GTA transit expansion program, and is planned to run between Exhibition Place and the Ontario Science Center. It is intended to alleviate overcrowding on TTC Line 1 and is scheduled to open around 2030.

The Queen station will be one of two transfer points with Line 1 and is expected to be the busiest of the 15 planned stations in the project. By 2041, the stop is projected to serve 16,600 people per hour at its busiest.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto reporter who covers transportation. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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