Starting today, a large portion of Queen Street is closed for more than four years. Here’s how the city will limit gridlock
Published Friday, April 28, 2023 1:05PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 1, 2023 9:24AM EDT
A large portion of Queen Street in Toronto’s downtown core will be closed to vehicles for more than four years starting next week.
As of May 1, Queen Street will only be open to pedestrians between Victoria Street in the east and Bay Street in the west. This closure will last for approximately four-and-a-half years to accommodate construction on the Ontario Line, which is scheduled to open in 2031.
The city is encouraging anyone travelling downtown to allow for extra time and consider taking public transit. The 501 Queen streetcar will divert to Dundas Street until next spring, and then Adelaide Street until the end of the Queen Street closure.
City of Toronto staff are working to mitigate gridlock as a result of this closure. Tactics being considered to reduce traffic in the downtown core include modified traffic signals as well as deploying police officers and traffic agents in congested areas. Traffic professionals will be placed in “key intersections” during peak traffic periods.
"We recently went through the process of hiring 11 new traffic agents. So we have a complete complement of about 14 traffic agents that we're going to be deploying to critical locations in and around the area to help traffic move more fluidly," Roger Browne, the city's director of traffic operations, said in an interview with CP24.
He added that the traffic agents will also support the TTC to ensure that the diversion routes are moving well and make transit a reliable mode of transportation.
Browne said the city is also installing smart signals that use artificial intelligence and collect data to help with traffic management.
The city is also working on a plan to lessen congestion around popular downtown events venues, including the Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena and Exhibition Place. These areas are set to feature increased traffic management from changes in traffic signal timing, portable traffic signs and on-site traffic agents to help direct vehicles.
Priority travel routes will be established and kept clear in order to keep traffic flowing through downtown Toronto. The first such route is Dundas Street between Jarvis and Bathurst streets, which the city says will provide an “unobstructed parallel route” for vehicles diverted from Queen Street. Additional priority routes will be established as construction on the Ontario Line progresses.
"We're basically trying to keep any non-essential construction off the streets to keep those roads clear for all vehicles, especially emergency services and transit," Browne said.
"Any non-essential construction work is basically deferred to subsequent years. And we've been taking that approach, especially now, because, as you mentioned, we have a tremendous amount of construction work already planned within the city. But then compounded by that is obviously the Ontario Line construction work as well. So it's critical for us to really focus on just only the essential construction work being allowed to happen."
Toronto Centre Councillor Chris Moise hopes that the mitigation being put in place will help ease the headache the closure will cause to commuters and residents.
"I know that this is definitely gonna be a problem for us. The downtown core, specifically Queen and Yonge, as you know, the Eaton Centre is there. We have theatres. It's close to the financial district itself. So many, many people are coming into the core on a daily basis. So hopefully, things will not be as bad as we think it may be." Moise told CP24.
He said downtown businesses will remain open throughout the closure and encouraged the public to visit and support them.
He advised those who want to come downtown to use public transit.
"This is going to be a four to five-year endeavour. And hopefully, it will get easier. But it's necessary. We want more transit. And this is what needs to be done to make sure long-term wise that we have more subways in the downtown core," Moise said.
Cheryll Diego with the Downtown Yonge BIA said it is important that access to businesses is maintained during the lengthy road closure and that the closure will be lifted on time.
"We need to make sure that people and goods are safely moving through our neighbourhood," Diego said.
"The construction should not stop anyone from coming and visiting our area. Our area continues to thrive. It continues to be a vibrant destination, particularly this summer. There are so many things that you can enjoy. There's something for everybody."