Metrolinx releases detour plans to keep people moving during Ontario Line Queen Street construction

Even though a lot of subway construction happens underground, there are still impacts at street level – especially near stations. Small parts of Toronto’s Queen Street on either side of Yonge Street are slated for detours to make way for necessary construction work to build a new Ontario Line station at Queen, under the current TTC station. Metrolinx has a plan for keeping people moving, supporting businesses in the area, and building new streetcar tracks for the TTC that will benefit riders long after construction wraps up.

Today Metrolinx is sharing plans to manage construction impacts around a new Ontario Line subway station at Toronto’s Yonge and Queen intersection.

The plan includes detours – for both streetcar lines and car traffic – around two small stretches of Queen Street on either side of Yonge, while maintaining important pedestrian connections.

The detours are expected to start in early 2023 and last for about four and a half years.

Doing any construction in the heart of Canada’s largest metropolis is no small feat, and building a station under the existing Line 1 platform to accommodate a new, connecting subway line is a massive undertaking. Linking up with the TTC’s existing Queen subway station, the new Ontario Line station will put even more people within easy reach of one of the city’s premier business and tourist destinations and will be the busiest connection point along the line, with 16,600 people expected to use it during the busiest travel hour of the day.

To support construction of this vital transfer point, Metrolinx has worked with the City of Toronto and the TTC to develop a plan that factors in continued movement, safety and an opportunity to build new streetcar infrastructure for the TTC.

Image shows a TTC bus going by a building at Queen and Yonge in downtown Toronto.
The new Ontario Line platform underneath Queen Station will provide connections to the existing Line 1 subway and TTC surface routes. (Mike Winterburn photo)

The density of this built-up urban area and the existing underground infrastructure – particularly Line 1 and its existing Queen subway station – requires Metrolinx to occupy the whole roadway to safely and efficiently carry out construction work for the new Ontario Line station.

All vehicles, including streetcars, will be diverted off Queen from just east of Bay Street to Yonge Street and from Yonge to Victoria for about four and a half years, from early 2023 into 2027.

Yonge Street, Bay Street and Victoria Street will remain open throughout construction, and Metrolinx will maintain pedestrian access to all businesses in the area.

Map showing Queen Street traffic diversion plans to support Ontario Line construction. (Metrolinx image)

“We looked at a partial closure option, but diverting all traffic for a set period of time means construction can be completed over a year sooner, the Ontario Line can open more than nine months earlier, and we can minimize disruptions to residents, businesses and visitors,” said Malcolm MacKay, Metrolinx program sponsor for the Ontario Line.

“More importantly, a full diversion like this gives people more predictability when moving through and around the area, avoiding a series of confusing on-and-off road closures that would drag on for a longer time.”

Traffic management plans will include safe, effective detours and wayfinding to ensure that people living in, working in, or visiting the area can move around quickly, easily and safely.

Safe pedestrian access will be maintained throughout construction, with effective wayfinding in place to highlight clear paths through the area. Access to businesses will be maintained at all times, including access to the vital loading docks that support their operation.

Drivers will be informed via communication tools like signs, social media and wayfinding apps like Google Maps and Waze.

Streetcars will run on special detour routes on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street during construction to keep people moving. 

Map showing TTC 501 streetcar detour routes to support Ontario Line construction. (Metrolinx image)

“We’re very pleased to have such great partners at the City of Toronto and the TTC, who are really instrumental in supporting these plans,” said MacKay.

“As part of this partnership, we’re also going to be funding the construction of diversion tracks that will link up with existing streetcar tracks, ultimately providing the TTC with the ability to offer more reliable service to its customers for years to come.”

“Even after the Ontario Line is completed, if streetcars need to divert from this area for special events, planned construction work, or unplanned detours, this new infrastructure will make that possible,” MacKay added.

Streetcar tracks that connect Queen Street to Richmond Street already exist for westbound route diversions, but Metrolinx will fund the construction of new tracks that will link Queen Street to Adelaide Street via York Street for eastbound diversions, as well as any other upgrades that may be needed on existing tracks in the area.

Of course, plans for the area are not just about the people who need to pass through: the needs of people who live and work near Queen and Yonge are also top of mind.

Metrolinx will use a range of proven noise and vibration solutions to address any potential disruptions during the construction phase.

During construction, a 24-hour hotline will give people direct access to someone who can listen to their concerns and address any issues. Metrolinx will also have community offices along the route to answer questions, provide updates and help support the community through construction.

Metrolinx will work with the business community to keep them informed about construction and provide them with flexible and individualized supports, including making sure store fronts are clear and easy to access, loading docks are not blocked or obstructed and working together on promotions and incentives to encourage people to shop local.

“Open, two-way dialogue will be essential to our success here,” said MacKay.

“That’s why we’re sharing these plans years in advance of any disruption – we want to do all we can to keep people moving efficiently and safely through the area and to keep businesses thriving as we build this new transit connection.”

Metrolinx will be hosting a dedicated virtual open house for the Queen Street closure in the coming weeks. You can find out when this open house and other open houses are happening by signing up for the e-Newsletter at Metrolinx.com/OntarioLine.

Story by Mike Winterburn, Metrolinx News senior writer, with files from Josh Patel and Sara Wilbur, Metrolinx subway program senior advisors