More pedestrian access coming to The Ex

Plans for a revamped Exhibition GO station would provide better access to and from venues and events

There’s often a rush that comes with everything that happens on the grounds at the CNE. Whether it’s the rides and games at the annual Exhibition itself or Toronto FC matches and Argos games at BMO Field, you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the crowds.

That’s why there are plans in the works to overhaul the area around Exhibition GO station. People need to move across the rail corridor and along the platforms better. Thousands of customers and sports fans are flowing both north and south along streets and through tunnels, so it’s important to make things easier.

looking north-east filter

Illustration for Exhibition GO Station proposal, looking north-east.

“To improve crowding at Exhibition Centre, not only are we going to provide a wider tunnel but also we’re going to provide a second point of access,” project manager Warren Dumlao said. “There are proposed plans to install a new pedestrian tunnel just west of Atlantic Avenue.”

As part of a conceptual site plan released earlier this year, Metrolinx made a number of recommendations for improvements. The main reason for each was to improve on what exists today and makes some big changes for the better.

The focus would be on the “quick wins” to start. By improving the existing space, including extending the central tunnel, as well as enhancing the public areas both on the north and south side of the rail corridor.

Right now, the north entrance isn’t visible so the idea is to create a clear pathway for pedestrians. Sidewalks could be widened while poles and utilities could be relocated to declutter as well. All this, depending on plans for the future Liberty New Street running east-west from The City of Toronto.

Wayfinding and signage to help people get to where they need to go would also be revamped. Sheltered waiting areas and canopies along the length of the GO platform would be provided too.

looking south-east

Illustration for Exhibition GO Station proposal, looking south-east.

The biggest part of the plan is a game-changer. A new western tunnel would be created near Jefferson Avenue to help ease congestion at the existing tunnel during large events. Safety can be a concern based on the number of people using the access points today, so that pressure could be relieved.

Sports fans heading to games at BMO Field would have better access to the west gates if another tunnel were added. Anyone making their way to Ontario Place could enjoy an easier path to that venue as well.

“This new proposed pedestrian tunnel is also going to include a new pedestrian plaza,” Dumlao said. “That also includes hard scape and planters and furniture out at the plaza level.”

As a long-term investment, yet another tunnel to the east to could improve connections for those in Liberty Village and provide better access to Ricoh Coliseum. Direct transfers between GO and the TTC streetcar could be made easier, with plans for a possible future extension of the TTC streetcar line to the west.

Metrolinx intends to award the contract to design and build the project in 2019, with construction estimated to begin by the end of that year. The proposed changes are estimated to be complete at the end of 2023.

The experience of being among the crowds going to events at The Ex is bound to be exciting without feeling anxious, especially when there is light at the end of the tunnel(s).