Metrolinx addresses concerns surrounding future Osgoode Station
Transit agency lays out need for Ontario Line station location & tree removals.
Feb 4, 2023
When building a transformational project like the Ontario Line, careful planning and consideration go into every decision Metrolinx makes.
Building a new subway line through Canada’s largest city means unavoidable impacts to things like trees, buildings, and roads, and Metrolinx makes every effort to mitigate those impacts.
Tree removals will take place on the Osgoode Hall grounds to allow for the construction of the new Ontario Line station.
This was not a decision Metrolinx made lightly, and it was only made after the agency explored multiple other options to ensure the site was the best option moving forward.
A critical connection
Toronto is the seventh most congested city in North America and will only continue to get worse. This affects the livelihood of all Ontarians as precious time is spent idling in traffic when it could be better spent with loved ones and friends.
The Ontario Line is a much-needed and long overdue new subway line that will stretch across the city, quickly and easily connecting numerous communities to the downtown core.
The line is expected to accommodate nearly 400,000 trips every day, which will relieve rush-hour crowding on the busy Line 1 by as much as 15 per cent and take 28,000 cars off the road every day. It will do this in part by creating a critical new connection to Line 1 at Osgoode Station, connecting approximately 12,000 customers during the busiest hour, many of whom will also be making connections to the popular Queen Street streetcar.
Recognizing the space constraints at this intersection, the northeast corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue is key – there is no other space here where a connection to Line 1 can be built.
The only reasonable option
A “keyhole” – or a construction shaft – needs to be built to allow for the excavation and construction of what will ultimately be a large underground complex, and the southwest section of the Osgoode Hall grounds is the only space that is able to accommodate this. A recent independent analysis commissioned by the City of Toronto supports Metrolinx’s plans for creating a new Ontario Line connection on the Osgoode Hall grounds.
This area will also be where one of two new station entrance buildings will be located, directly lining up with the westbound streetcar stop.
Some transit advocates have suggested moving this construction from the northeast corner of the intersection to the middle of University Avenue, however this option was ruled out due to the potential impacts on existing Line 1 subway service.
Excavating immediately overtop of the existing subway tunnels under University Avenue would mean shutting down Line 1 subway service for several years and drastically impacting traffic on one of the city’s major roadways, which connects to several major hospitals. There are also numerous power, gas, and telecommunications lines under the street that would need to be avoided, which ruled out this option.
Building on the Osgoode Hall site also creates a safer transfer option for future customers by avoiding the need to cross a busy intersection to connect to westbound streetcars, which also aligns with the City of Toronto’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan. This will also help keep traffic moving through an already busy area.
Avoiding buildings, planting new trees
Building a major interchange station in the heart of a city also requires space to store equipment and materials onsite. Open areas not occupied by buildings are ideal for this.
The three other corners at the intersection have existing buildings on them, including the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Campbell House Museum, and an eight-storey heritage building with retail and office space. Locating most of the work in the northeast corner of the intersection allows Metrolinx to avoid and minimize impacts to these buildings.
Plans and designs will take nearby structures into account and include solutions for ensuring they are safe and can continue to effectively accommodate their day-to-day functions and operations.
There will be site-specific safety and protection plans for the work at Osgoode Hall and every other construction site along the Ontario Line route, which will be developed in consultation with community partners, including the Law Society of Ontario at Osgoode Hall. These plans will include commitments for managing noise and vibration caused by construction.
Metrolinx is also working with partners to protect as many mature trees as possible and to develop plans for beautifying and restoring the space after construction with new vegetation and landscaping. Metrolinx only removes trees that are absolutely necessary to accommodate construction, and the agency will plant three or more trees for every one tree removed for the Ontario Line project.
“Despite best efforts, there will be temporary disruptions and some permanent changes to an important institution and community space,” said Phil Verster, Metrolinx president and CEO.
Metrolinx is assembling a team of heritage experts to holistically plan, conserve, and commemorate heritage aspects at the University and Queen intersection.
While the main environmental benefits of the Ontario Line are longer-term goals – like 28,000 fewer cars on the road each day and 14,000 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year – Metrolinx is taking steps to make things better now. On top of its mandate to expand and improve transit, Metrolinx is increasing the overall tree canopy across the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area.
Since early 2020, Metrolinx has helped plant more than 27,000 native trees and 42,000 shrubs at over 50 sites through the region and has given away more than 1,500 trees to local residents. As it builds much-needed transit across the region, Metrolinx is planting more trees than it removes.
“We want to help create a more connected, sustainable and accessible city – one that gives more people more opportunities to thrive and succeed,” said Verster.
“There will be some hard decisions along the way, but we are doing everything we can to ease impacts as we work to bring long-term benefits to the people of Toronto.”
by Sara Wilbur Metrolinx communications senior advisor, subway program