A city committee has approved a proposal to cut in half the amount of time shuttle buses will be used to divert the busy 501 Queen streetcar route around planned construction of a new subway station.
On Friday, councillors on Toronto's general governance committee voted to recommend offering a sole-source contract worth $40 million to Midome Construction Services Ltd. to complete the construction of 570 metres of streetcar track on Adelaide Street, along with related utility work.
Midome, which is already doing work to replace water mains in the same area, has indicated it can complete the work by March 2024.
That would reduce from 20 months to 10 months the period shuttle buses would be necessary to divert riders around a two-block section of Queen Street between Victoria Street and Bay Street.
That section will close on May 1 of this year until the end of 2027 as the provincial transit agency, Metrolinx, builds a new underground station for the Ontario Line subway route.
"In order to ensure efficient transit operations and minimize overlap between the Queen Street closure and restrictions on Adelaide Street during construction of the streetcar tracks, it is imperative that construction proceeds as soon as possible," reads a report from the city's chief engineer, transportation services manager and chief procurement officer.
"Midome's current presence on-site means that they can start almost immediately, offering significant efficiencies."
Councillors to consider plan at next meeting
The City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx had agreed to build the tracks and infrastructure necessary to divert the Queen streetcar between York Street and Church Street eastbound along Adelaide Street and westbound along Richmond Street during the Ontario Line construction period.
However, last week, the TTC said in a report that construction of the streetcar tracks on Adelaide Street won't be completed by the time Queen Street closes due to "the amount and complexity of utility conflicts and relocations that have been identified through site surveys."
As a result, the TTC said, shuttle buses would have to be used for the first 20 months until all the track work was complete.
The delay would also mean part of Queen and a portion Adelaide will be closed at the same time, causing traffic issues in the downtown core.
Contracting Midome will not only allow the Queen streetcar diversion to begin earlier but would also minimize traffic disruptions, according to the report.
"The compatibility between their current watermain replacement works and the subsequent streetcar track installation is key to reducing the risks and liability to the city of having two separate contractors working on site," the report said.
Metrolinx has agreed to pay the bulk of the contract, with the city responsible for around $300,000 in road resurfacing, according to the report.
Full council approval is required for the plan to move ahead, and councillors will consider it at their next meeting on March 29.
At Friday's governance committee meeting, city staff said Metrolinx was originally responsible for completing the track work on Adelaide, but had recently asked the city to take it on.
At the meeting, Coun. Gord Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park, lashed out at the transit agency, blaming it for the construction delay.
"The lesson here is that Metrolinx can't do urban transit, and that the City of Toronto and the TTC can."
The lesson here is that Metrolinx can't do urban transit, and that the City of Toronto and the TTC can. - Coun. Gord Perks
In a statement, Metrolinx said the delay on Adelaide is not the result of its own work.
"The detour infrastructure work cannot begin until the [City of Toronto's] current — and unrelated — utility upgrades are completed," the statement said. "We have worked collaboratively with the City of Toronto and TTC to minimize the impacts of this delay."
Coun. Ausma Malik, who represents Ward 10—Spadina-Fort York, and whose ward includes the area of Queen Street affected by the closure, said a 20-month shuttle bus replacement program would be unacceptable. She congratulated the city's efforts to step in and minimize disruptions.
"The city has been very capable of being deft and nimble in coming up with solutions and we need that to be met and matched by Metrolinx and the provincial government as the Ontario Line moves forward," Malik told reporters Friday.
Malik said she, along with Coun. Chris Moise (Ward 13, Toronto Centre) and Coun. Paula Fletcher (Ward 14, Toronto—Danforth) created a subcommittee last week on the Toronto and East York community council that will develop clear recommendations related to minimizing future disruptions during construction of the Ontario Line.
Coun. James Pasternak, who represents Ward 6, York Centre and chairs the governance committee, admitted there will be challenges but said collaboration between the city and Metrolinx is necessary and desirable.
"For decades, the City of Toronto has been asking the provincial government to come to the table when it comes to capital investments and expanding our required transit network, and they are doing it in this case," he said.
"They're paying ... $40 million, creating a re-route that will stay permanent. They're building the Eglinton Crosstown and the Finch LRT and, of course, they're working on a number of other [transit] lines in the city."