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Busy section of Queen Street to close for 5 years starting May 1

A busy portion of Queen Street will soon be closed to all vehicle traffic for nearly five years as construction of the Ontario Line subway extension continues downtown.

Starting on May 1, traffic will be diverted off Queen Street from Bay Street to Yonge Street, near the south-end of the Toronto Eaton Centre, and from Yonge Street to Victoria Street, just west of St. Michael’s Hospital.

James Street, which runs north-south between Old City Hall and the Eaton Centre, will also be closed between Queen and Albert streets.

The closure will remain in effect for an estimated four-and-a-half years, according to Metrolinx.

“With heavily built up infrastructure both above and underground in the area – particularly the TTC’s Line 1 and its existing Queen subway station – construction needs to take place in the roadway to safely and efficiently build the much-needed Ontario Line subway project,” Metrolinx said in a press release Tuesday.

“Closing this section of street to vehicle traffic will expedite construction for the project by roughly one year compared to an approach with multiple partial closures.”

The transit agency says that despite the closure, there will continue to be “consistent access” into the downtown core for transit users, with modified streetcar service on the 501 Queen Street route.

“The TTC will continue to provide continuous east-west streetcar service on the 501 streetcar using an alternate route,” Metrolinx said.

“Streetcars will detour onto Dundas Street at McCaul Street in the west and Broadview Avenue in the east.”

A more permanent modified 501 route that will run along Adelaide and Richmond streets is also in the works, but isn’t expected to be completed for another 10 months.

Supplemental shuttle buses will run in this section of downtown in the meantime until the work is completed, which is estimated to be in March of next year. 

Metrolinx says that despite the closure, the Queen Street sidewalks will remain open to pedestrians.

“Safe, effective detours and wayfinding will ensure that people living in, working in or visiting the area will still be able to access all their favourite shops, restaurants and cafés during the closure,” it said.

Some downtown business owners say they’re encouraged by this, but worry that the years-long construction may affect their bottom line.

“The reality is, if the [Eglinton] Crosstown is any indication, these kinds of projects have an impact on the local community,” John Kiru, Executive Director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) told earlier this year.

“We understand that the long term impact will be of benefit to the businesses and to the economic and social wellbeing of the community, but the question becomes, will those businesses last long enough to actually benefit from that?”

Kiru also said that despite Metrolinx’s assurances that all businesses will remain accessible to pedestrians during construction, there are other factors to keep in mind.

“How are deliveries going to be dealt with? Sidewalks might be open, but if you can't get a truck over there to make deliveries, what are the plans for that?” Kiru asked.

“Hopefully we’ll have people on the street, strolling the way they do right now, but there will be closed out areas; how do we assure that it's kept clean, or that the litter bins are picked up?”

Kiru said business owners across the city are also concerned that completion of the Ontario Line project may continually get pushed back, much like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT has been numerous times.

Still, Kiru said most business owners in Toronto understand that the city needs new transit infrastructure, and are in favour of the new subway line being built.

Metrolinx says that once the Ontario Line is completed, it will “accommodate nearly 400,000 daily trips and reduce crowding on the TTC’s busy Line 1 by up to 15 per cent.”

But the agency says it recognizes there are challenges when building new transit projects in densely populated urban areas.

“Metrolinx is partnering with the City, TTC, utility companies and others to ensure a coordinated approach to managing traffic impacts, establishing alternate transit routes, and giving people more predictability with trip planning,” it said in the release.

“Metrolinx will also be establishing a community liaison committee for this area, which will serve as a collaborative forum to come up with creative solutions and mitigation efforts to minimize impacts on businesses and communities.”

The 15-stop, 15.6-kilometre Ontario Line will run from Exhibition Place through the downtown core along Queen Street before heading north to the Ontario Science Centre. It is currently scheduled to be completed by 2031. Top Stories

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