Union Station sees historical prep work to prepare for the future of Toronto transit

As Canada’s most recognized commuter transit hub, Union Station sees a lot of train, bus and traveller traffic. But the constant movement, and time, have taken a heavy toll on structures that stand, season after season. Here’s how it’s being renovated.

This historic pause is allowing many of us to look back, as well as ponder the future of the way we’ll get moving again.

But those conversations have been happening about Toronto’s Union Station for some time now.

The iconic hub has been a vital part of transit in this country for the better part of a century. And as nothing is immune to the toll of time, the wrinkles and creaking joints were obvious.

The moon is shown over downtown Toronto.

The moon hovers over downtown Toronto and Union Station. (Metrolinx photo)

Later this spring Metrolinx will announce the successful proponent for an upcoming Union Station Enhancement Project (USEP) – which will transform and expand Union Station, Canada’s busiest transportation hub, in preparation for increased service levels across the region. When society gets moving again, that expanded transit role will be needed.

But before that work can even start, there’s been preparation – lots of preparation. Since early 2018, Metrolinx has been getting ready for USEP with the Heritage Restoration, Early and Enabling Works package.

The different parts have meant lots of acronyms, but also a lot of initial heavy lifting, as the full scope of the project is large.

Image shows the Union Station sign.

Union Station is well used, even during these times of COVID. That means taking measures to keep it, and the corridor around it, in good shape. (Metrolinx photo)

This preparatory work focussed on restoring heritage infrastructure throughout the station, improving platform performance, as well as ensuring the state of good repair around the station.

Image shows the old, metal heritage enclosure.

The heritage freight enclosure. (Metrolinx photo)

At platform level, the work focussed on enabling a better customer experience in the future by installing traveller information monitors, PA equipment, cameras, and tactile yellow platform edge tiles. As well as general platform concrete repairs, platform extension reconstruction and paving of all platforms in both the east and west ends.

In October of last year, the last of the platform ‘stage changes’ was completed – which means all platforms are open. This allows an unobstructed view through the train shed.

Looks down at all the plarforms.

A clear view looking down at all the Union Station platforms. (Metrolinx photo)

Work to complete the waterproofing in the York and Bay Concourses and replacement of previously damaged ceiling tiles was completed. Additionally, hub rooms were installed in preparation for commissioning of aforementioned platform equipment.

With respect to heritage work, there was careful architectural and structural restoration to freight elevator shaft enclosures, stair enclosures and skylights, roof-level enclosures, heritage columns, and the Bay Street Bridge;. This included replacement of the butcher block roof and heritage façade restoration of the north face. As well the train shed concrete smoke vents and the atrium heritage steel was removed.

Image looks up at the bridge.

The north façade of the Bay St. Bridge. (Metrolinx photo)

The finishing touches are still underway. The prep work is scheduled complete in May 2020 in advance of the start of the Union Station Enhancement Project.

Image shows a wooden roof top.

The top of the butcher block of Bay St. bridge. (Metrolinx photo)

Image shows a wooden ceiling.

And the underside of the butcher block roof. (Metrolinx photo)

Time waits for no one and no station. But work, despite a larger pause, has been moving ahead to help ready Union Station for the next century to come.

Story by Stacey Kenny, Metrolinx senior advisor, Communications and Stakeholder Relations.