Queens Quay Streetcars Going East

This TTC image shows the proposed streetcar route on Queens Quay East, and the lake fill expanding green space at the Yonge Street slip.

Major changes are planned to continue streetcars along Queens Quay east of Yonge Street all the way to the Port Lands. YQNA, a stakeholder in the planning process, was recently invited to participate in a virtual meeting hosted by City Planning, Waterfront Toronto and TTC staff. A presentation of the proposed plans was followed by a Q&A. YQNA will announce an information session for the wider public to follow later this year. 

Expecting a large population growth in the Waterfront area, City Council approved the upgrading of the tunnel from Union Station to Queens Quay last year. The plans will also include a larger platform at Union Station, enhancement of the Queens Quay station, and a new tunnel heading east under Queens Quay. TTC is in charge of the underground work and has awarded a design contract to Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions.

The surface tracks on Queens Quay East will be designed by the City and Waterfront Toronto. The previous 2010 Environmental Assessment (EA) study dealt with a shorter streetcar line ending at Parliament Street. The EA must now be updated for a longer transit service ending at Cherry Street.

A key issue in this multi-year construction project is the location of the tunnel portal. In 2010, it was recommended to bring the line to the surface around Freeland Street. A large sewer outfall at the foot of Yonge Street has since been identified, and to run the tunnel beneath it would add many millions of dollars. The cheaper solution would be to build a shorter tunnel with the portal just west of Yonge Street.

The streetcar track and the proposed portal would be located on the south side of Queens Quay, which would block the access driveways to the ferry docks and the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, and also remove the existing taxi and bus parking areas. The suggested solution is to fill in part of the Yonge Street Slip and create a new link to the ferry laneway and the hotel driveway. The new landfill could also hold the taxis and some tour buses (see illustration).

The new streetscape would build on the design of Queens Quay West, with improvements to the cycle path and the tree planting beds. Wave decks or other features may be added to the slips along the way at Jarvis and Parliament, for example. 

Key concerns about the portal location and design were raised by YQNA and others, particularly representatives of 10 Queens Quay West, who questioned their access to drop-off and theparking garage in their buildings. YQNA felt that the portal would create a dead zone on the street between Bay and Yonge, as well as adding another unsightly feature to Queens Quay like the portal between York and Bay streets.

Several people asked about co-ordination with other work in the area, such as the future redevelopment of 11 Bay (the Westin conference centre), the Toronto Star site and the Ferry Docks.

Other questions showed worries about closing the streetcar and bus service and road closures during a lengthy construction period that is so far unknown. TTC did not pinpoint the method of building the tunnel, but an open cut is most likely and would be most disruptive.

The line along QQE could be built first, along with the portal and an east-west tunnel. That would enable through service on Queens Quay while the rest of the tunnel to Union is completed. 

So far there is only partial funding for this phase of the project. Land owners along the route such as Redpath Sugar still have to be consulted. Staff are looking at a report to Council at the end of 2020 to seek approval of the design so far, and further funding to 100% design, which would take 12 to 18 months. Actual construction of the on-street section could take 3 years, and the underground works perhaps longer. 

Conclusion: we are a long way from streetcar service on Queens Quay East.

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