Metrolinx’s Ontario Line closes Queen Street for five years

By Megan Bocchinfuso –

Metrolinx has closed Queen Street between Bay and Victoria to construct the Ontario Line’s future Queen Station. The closure is to last nearly five years starting May 1.

According to the provincial agency, this will help expedite construction for future stations of the subway line. It says fully closing part of the street – rather than partial, staggered closures for a longer period – cuts a year from the anticipated end date.

Metrolinx estimated the closure to be 4.5 years.

Cory Lemos, a Corktown business owner and vice-president of the Corktown Residents and Business Association, a volunteer community group, is concerned about businesses near King, Berkley and Queen Streets. “We operate a retail service business where it’s necessary that clients come to us and merchandise is delivered,” she said.

Lemos said Metrolinx mentioned a “business package” to her and other affected businesses. “I have asked to know what their business package offerings will include. But as construction dates near, [Metrolinx] staff have become more reticent,” Lemos said.

Metrolinx’s ongoing Eglinton Crosstown project, ten years in the making and seriously delayed, originally planned to compensate businesses through local Business Improvement Areas. Metrolinx Media Relations said they provided $8-million to businesses on Eglinton. Compensation was not provided to businesses directly, but through “local business supports” such as marketing and promotion.

Regarding the Ontario Line, Metrolinx said the province will “provide direct financial support through BIAs within direct proximity to the project route.”

For areas such as Moss Park and Corktown that do not have BIAs, Metrolinx says it “will work directly with the affected businesses to support their marketing needs. Metrolinx will also compensate owners, tenants and others if impacted properties are required on a temporary basis (for example, easement for construction staging) or permanent basis (for example, station entrances).”

Queen Street is a main artery, housing independent and small businesses running through communities in the East end. Downtown Toronto houses professional soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey teams, and multiple festivals, conventions and other events.

Lemos said her main concern is traffic. “It’s no secret that many people are avoiding Eglinton Avenue [during construction],and the same will happen in downtown Toronto.”

MPPs Chris Glover and Kristyn Wong-Tam are creating a “work group” with local businesses and Metrolinx to ensure everyone knows how “to get where they need to go.”

The group will also monitor Metrolinx to have clean construction sites and provide a direct line of communication between Metrolinx and businesses.

“Queen Street is a vital hub,”Glover said. “Downtown is where everything happens.” Glover said he is looking to the provincial government to invest in the downtown core, ensuring it continues to thrive while the Ontario Line is being built. Glover believes provincial investments will be largely promotional and will benefit all businesses downtown, including convention centres, hotels, galleries, restaurants and shopping centres.

The construction on Queen Street was designed by Metrolinx to have the least amount of impact possible, Glover said. Construction will be mostly underground, but the Queen Streetcar will be rerouted.

Moss Park Espresso owner Joe Furfaro said he is “very happy” that the streetcar will still run on Queen from Bay Street west and from Church Street east. He believes the new [Moss Park] station will improve the neighbourhood, benefiting everyone in the long run.