Need for Toronto construction project coordination, safety guidelines ‘pretty urgent’

Click to play video: 'Frustration and safety concern mount amid multiple Toronto road closures'
Frustration and safety concern mount amid multiple Toronto road closures
WATCH: Frustration and safety concern mount amid multiple Toronto road closures – Nov 4, 2022

When it comes to constructions in Toronto, everything appears to be happening everywhere, all at once, contributing more to the core’s congestion problems and creating havoc for cyclists, transit-users, and motorists alike. It’s led to more calls for a safety plan, and for a coordinated approach to projects with impacts on major arterial routes.

For the next five weekends, the southern portion of Yonge Street will be closed for a demolition project affecting pedestrian and car access to Lakeshore Boulevard and off the Gardiner Expressway.

Were it to be occurring in isolation, the work could be written off as a temporary headache. Instead, it comes at the same time as on-going projects on Adelaide and College streets, and dozens of others.

Read more: Several GO bus routes rerouted away from downtown Toronto due to congestion

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A look at the city’s website detailing road restrictions reveals a map with an almost comical amount of closures. The concurrent closures have spurred more calls for increased coordination, including from the city’s mayor, but relief may be hard to come by.

The City of Toronto website offers an interactive map showing planned construction projects.

At a recent press conference, Mayor John Tory bemoaned ongoing utility work at the corner of Bay and Queen streets which appeared to have no end in sight. While he made no apologies for necessary work needed to expand transit and housing, he conceded some projects could be handled better.

“I’m not satisfied with the degree to which we could better coordinate the construction,” Tory said, “when it comes to the standpoint of people moving around the city.”

Read more: Portion of Toronto’s Yorkville briefly closed due to ‘very dangerous’ construction situation

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Toronto’s general manager for Transportation Services, Barbara Gray, said a lot of the work is happening concurrently for a combination of reasons. To start, the ideal weather window is and will always be a short one. Gray also said some of the timelines of projects have been lengthened due to supply chain issues and the difficulty for contractors to find workers.

Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation Services, Barbara Gray, said a lot of the work is being done at the same time to reduce future impacts. Matthew Bingley/Global News

A lot of the work is happening at the same time, she said, for the simple fact that it has to get done. The combination of multiple critical infrastructure projects like water mains and streetcar tracks, have been contributing the major impacts.

Click to play video: 'Toronto road congestion has voters looking for city coordination'
Toronto road congestion has voters looking for city coordination

But Gray said the city is trying to get as much work done now, to reduce future traffic impacts that will come with the construction of the Ontario Line.

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“The work that we’re doing on Adelaide Street is going to help to support transit that is going to work to support the Queen Street closure,” said Gray. A busy section of Queen Street from Bay to Yonge streets. and Yonge to Victoria streets, will be closed to all vehicles including streetcars beginning early next year until 2027, for Metrolinx subway construction.

Read more: More than 2,000 GO Transit workers set to strike beginning Monday: union

“So we really need to get these projects done in advance so that we can try to manage the construction impacts in the go forward,” said Gray. The city, she explained, has a number of measures that are meant to reduce some of those impacts, like construction hubs and traffic agents.

But advocates think the city should be doing more to cut down the safety impacts of so much construction, especially when it comes to the sudden end of bike lanes, as is the case on Adelaide Street.

“It’s particularly treacherous for people who bike who have come to rely on the few bike lanes and infrastructure that are available to them,” said Alison Stewart with Cycle Toronto, “but I’ll say that it’s the same issue for people that walk or take transit face.”

Advocates, like Cycle Toronto’s Alison Stewart, said the city needs to update its construction safety guidelines to increase safety for everyone outside a car. Matthew Bingley/Global News

“Sometimes there’s no signage, sometimes there’s a cleared path for people who walk or bike, and most times there isn’t,” said Stewart.

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She said the last time the city updated its construction zone guidelines for cyclists was in 2017. “The need to have some kind of consistency in terms of construction zone safety program rolled out across the city is pretty urgent,” said Stewart.

Cycle Toronto has been collaborating with another advocacy group to meet with the city’s transportation director and the manager of work zones to discuss short- and long-term solutions to help improve the safety for people outside of cars.

“We don’t want the needs of one vulnerable group of road users to be at the expense of another,” she said. “We want to make sure it benefits everyone outside of a car, because really we’re the people most likely to get a severe injury or worse.”

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