An 18-month, $25-million project to straighten out a notoriously confusing west Toronto intersection is underway.
The intersection of King Street West, Queen Street West, the Queensway and Roncesvalles Avenue has baffled drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike for decades, but the City of Toronto has figured out how to realign it to make sense and ensure TTC streetcars have an easier time navigating it.
The project started last year with some preliminary preparation work, says Frank Clarizio, director of design and construction, municipal infrastructure and Gardiner Rehabilitation Project for the City of Toronto, and then got fully underway in February this year with a planned wrap up for August 2022.
KQQR as it’s known is a three-phase undertaking with Phase Two running from July to November and then Phase Three running through to completion.
The issue is the wild angles that converge at the intersection with King Street East coming in at a 45-degree angle from the east to join with Roncesvalles Avenue, while the Queensway dog legs up at 30 degrees from the other side of Roncesvalles to the west. Confusing things further, Queen Street East joins Roncesvalles from the east at a standard 90 degrees.
Add in the spaghetti junction of TTC tracks which criss-cross the intersection carrying street cars on all four streets plus feeding into the Roncesvalles barns and the result is a massive intersection that can be hard to navigate for any vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian.
Remarkably, it’s not considered one of Toronto’s most dangerous intersections, but the city has known for sometime it needed a reset, Clarizio says, and with the Six Points intersection further west it has been on a priority list.
“We are looking at other intersections across the city,” he says of the Etobicoke project at Dundas Street West, Kipling Avenue and Bloor Street West. “But Six Points and this one were first.”
Six points was a freeway-style interchange that dated from the 1950s and had long been overtaken by the city’s growth.
Grade separations were removed and the new design freed up 1.75 acres of land for parks and 15.5 acres for mixed-use development along with new tree planting, bike lanes, relocation of utilities underground and the addition of streetscaping elements such as 55 planters and 51 benches. It launched in 2017 and wraps up this year.
Unlike the Six Points makeover, KQQR involves a lot more excavation and juggling for moving parts such as the TTC track, the roadway itself, resurfacing, utilities, water and sewer repair and upgrades.
All this in a busy Parkdale south neighbourhood hemmed in by the Gardiner Expressway to the south. It’s also further complicated by the closure on weekends of Lake Shore Boulevard West because of the ActiveTO program which sees cyclists and pedestrians take over the road.
“ActiveTO won’t impact our timeliness,” says Clarizio, who notes the key to making the project work will be the two years of planning.
“It’s tight in terms of space,” he says, with precious little room for laydown of materials, parking heavy equipment and storing excavated materials.
“The challenge really was more in the planning stage. We were aware of the TTC in that intersection and because the work was going to be lengthy we had to develop substantial mitigation to keep the connection east west from Queen and then from King. However north south is going to be interrupted.”
In creating a normalized four leg intersection they will also take the opportunity to rehabilitate the Parkside Drive Bridge at the Queensway.
Among the changes over the next 18 months will be extending the TTC right of way to separate out vehicle traffic, new traffic signals, improved accessibility at TTC platforms and safer cycling and pedestrian right of ways.
Also planned are watermain replacements requiring excavation, sewer relining, cleaning of the existing sanitary sewer and repair of maintenance holes.
The general contractor is Sanscon Construction Limited which has extensive experience both with the Queensway tracks having worked on them in the last few years and in working in tight urban conditions.
The TTC will be installing the tracks itself and will also be handling the replacement of overhead wiring to power their street cars.
The work is part of $1 billion the City of Toronto is spending in the 2021 construction season on roads, bridges, expressways, TTC tracks, sewers and watermains.
Clarizio says there is always the unknown when excavation starts but says preliminary studies suggest the site is far enough away from the lakeshore itself that they won’t be encountering archeological finds such as those often found when reclaimed land is dug up.
“You never know what you find, of course, but we’re far enough away from the water table in terms of drainage,” he says.
“However, there may be some abandoned watermains or train tracks. It’s hard to tell what was there and they built on top of.”