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City of Toronto marks end of 11-year, $824M Union Station revitalization project

Click to play video: 'Old Union Station switching system to be replaced' Old Union Station switching system to be replaced
WATCH ABOVE: A system of manual levers and switches developed in the 1920s still directs train traffic at Toronto’s Union Station. The system is about to be replaced after more than 90 years on the job. Tom Hayes reports – Dec 11, 2019

After years of delays and major construction work to overhaul the 94-year-old Union Station in downtown Toronto, officials have announced the completion of the mammoth project.

“This has been an incredibly challenging revitalization, but today represents a very good day not just for the city of Toronto but the entire GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) because thousands of people come through Union Station on their travels,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Tuesday.

“This was no easy task. Throughout the revitalization, the most remarkable thing is Union Station has remained open … We kept the building open, we kept the transit running and we completed an incredibly complex renovation on a historic project.”

Read more: GO Transit officially begins operating out of new Union Station Bus Terminal

On Tuesday, officials marked the opening of the new GO Transit concourse off of Bay Street.

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Throughout the course of the project, which began in 2009, crews have divided the work up into sections to avoid shutting down the station. During the course of the project, officials said there were financing issues with contractors as well as supply chain problems that extended the ultimate interior completion date by several years (previously forecast to be largely completed in 2017). The final budget of $824 million also grew from the initial price of $640 million.

When asked about the history of the project, one that started before he became mayor, Tory defended the work done as part of the project.

Read more: $823M Toronto Union Station revitalization, expansion project on track to finish in 2020

“In the end, if you look at the return this will pay in terms of improved transportation, economic activity and so on, I think it’s going to be a good investment. It’s a bigger investment than we thought,” he said.

Highlights of the completed heritage project include tripling the amount of space for GO Transit customers with the new concourses off of York and Bay streets, digging under Union Station to create a new level of retail which adds around 160,000 square feet of commercial space, the creation of a new food court, a renovated Via Rail concourse and lounge, installation of glass-covered moats along three sides of the building to provide protection from the weather, new accesses to the underground PATH system and two new bike storage areas.

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Other major projects at and near Union Station in the past decade included the expansion of the TTC’s Union subway station with the creation of a new platform, the opening of the new Union Station GO bus terminal at the corner of Bay Street and Lake Shore Boulevard West and the creation of a new UP Express station on the east

Officials estimated approximately 500,000 people a day will travel through Union Station post-pandemic.

Read more: All-day GO Train service to Hamilton’s West Harbour station starts Aug. 7

However, despite the completion of works inside the station below track level, there will still be a lot of expansion work to come in the next decade.

Phil Verster, the CEO of Metrolinx — the government agency that runs GO Transit and UP Express, said there is a lot of work that will be done at the platform level to vastly increase capacity.

He said pre-pandemic there were about 2,000 train trips across the entire GO Transit network and many of those trains passed through Union Station. With expansion plans for the regional transit organization to meet growing ridership demands, it’s estimated there will be about 6,000 train trips after 10 years.

Read more: Feds set to begin procurement process for Toronto-Quebec City high-frequency rail corridor

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Verster said over the next eight to 10 years, the platform level will need to be reconfigured and expanded to accommodate the surge in train trips. He also said a new southern concourse and access points will need to be constructed.

“While I’m aware of how people feel about how long work has taken at Union, I don’t want people to be alarmed by the fact we have more work to do but we have more work to do,” he said.

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