Despite being over 90 years old, we sure do ask for a lot from Union Station. More than 200,000 GO train customers pass through it on weekdays (200,000!), and that’s not counting TTC and VIA riders. Union Station is the country’s busiest transportation hub, and in order to sustain projected growth of the region and the GO system, we set out to work with the City of Toronto to upgrade it.
At the risk of oversimplifying, the Union Revitalization project is made up of three major projects: the underground concourses, the train shed and platforms, and the TTC second subway platform, which was completed last year. The work itself was quite the undertaking, and then factor in the rules around working with heritage sites and the requirement that those 200,000 passengers continue to travel safely.
Last year, the York GO Concourse opened to the delight of many. Its site was previously unfamiliar to commuters, and its construction had little impact on their weekday journeys. Behind hoarding, crews dug several metres below the station’s existing floor to create two levels of concourse. While they dug, they protected the vital concrete columns
embedded across the site. These columns, 40% of which directly support trains above, didn’t extend deep enough for the dig and had to be replaced simultaneously. The concourse was then outfitted with GO amenities and opened to customers last summer. The Bay Concourse, last renovated in 1975, closed shortly following the PanAm/Parapan
Am Games last year to undergo similar work and mirror its neighbour on the York St. side; it is scheduled to reopen next year. Once complete, Union Station will have three times the GO concourse space for travelers to access trains in comfort.
High above the concourse level sits the historic train shed. The task at hand is to accommodate its dual function as a train hub and thoroughfare amidst a complicated network of tracks and signals, while providing a safe place for people to wait for, board and exit trains. But also, to revitalize its status as one of Toronto’s most iconic landmarks. Instead of a traditional place of utility, it can be an intersection of modern design, function and historical significance. Within the limitations of working with a national heritage site, the project team has replaced 5,000 m2 of the existing roof with a modern glass atrium, towering high above the platforms below. Ongoing work involves repairing and restoring the remaining 30,000 m2 historic steel structure and roof. This next stage of work requires empty platforms to ensure safety
below; this has resulted in some closures of tracks and corresponding platforms. Add in the management of the complicated network of tracks, signals and trains, and the result is changes to GO schedules and platform assignments. These changes are unavoidable, but as anyone who has lived through a renovation can appreciate, short-term pain will lead to long-term gain.
When the revitalization is complete, this building will be a gathering place, an eating place, a shopping place, an admiring place, and of course, a traveling place; upholding it’s title as Canada’s busiest transportation hub for years to come.