It’s been causing Torontonians headaches since 1884. Its removal was first tabled in 1966 [PDF]. And now after more than a century, its reign, defined by traffic snarls and bus delays, has come to an end. Yes, on Thursday, at 3 p.m. sharp, we can all finally say goodbye to the Dufferin Jog—the street’s detour along Peel and Gladstone avenues—and hello to the Dufferin Underpass.
Construction of the Queen subway, November 17, 1897. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 376, File 2, Item 9.
Like Toronto’s underdeveloped waterfront or the impractical roads that litter the Junction, the Jog is the product of the good ol’ days when Toronto’s railroad tycoons lorded over the city and built railway lines wherever they pleased. At the time, the practice greatly benefited industry and railway company coffers, but now, in the twenty-first century, the results are proving expensive to fix.
In total, the Jog elimination project, which has been ongoing since December 2008, will cost an estimated forty million dollars. Originally, the city expected to have the underpass complete by December 2009, but according to councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park), a “minor” surveying error and an improperly identified fiber optic cable pushed the completion date back to July 2010, and then eventually to November.
Delays aside, the councillor is more than happy with the final results. “For a project of this scope, and this magnitude, to come in as quickly as it has…is actually quite an achievement,” Perks told Torontoist. “It’s a remarkable piece of engineering work. I’m quite proud of City staff.”
Unfortunately, not everything will be ready for the opening. According to Jim Schaffner, the City’s senior project engineer, the gates and fences that will surround the tracks still need to be installed, additional landscaping work will necessitate daytime curb lane closures over the next two weeks, and the tracks that run above the underpass still need to be restored to their “original alignment.” Schaffner estimates that the rail re-alignment, which he says will not disrupt street traffic, will be complete by mid-December. The mosaic artwork that will adorn the walls inside the tunnel also won’t be ready until spring.
And then there’s Metrolinx. In 2009, the regional transportation authority asked the city to expand the underpass to accommodate an additional rail line to meet its future needs along the Georgetown South corridor. In response, Schaffner drafted a proposal to include the extra line, but the City balked at the additional costs, the extra two months of construction time, and the last-minute nature of the request, even though it will likely be costlier and more disruptive to build down the road.
“It’s difficult to do these things on the fly,” says Schaffner. “We just couldn’t accommodate the expansion of the project.”
Perks agrees. “When the environmental assessment was done, one of the things we do as a matter of course is circulate the proposal to all the relevant agencies,” he told us. “In this case, it was GO Transit. We asked them: ‘Do you have any problems or additional needs associated with this project?’ We got back a letter, which we still have on file, saying ‘no.’ It was only well after the environmental assessment was approved, and the contract had been tendered, that GO/Metrolinx came back and asked for an additional track…If we ran every project, and allowed anybody to come in after they had signed off to make changes, we would have an endless nightmare completing projects around the city.”
Surprisingly, Metrolinx doesn’t dispute the City’s decision.
“Metrolinx did approach the City to accommodate the additional bridge work required to support this fourth track, in order to take advantage of the current closure of Dufferin Street,” explains Ian McConachie, a media relations specialist at Metrolinx. “Unfortunately, this would have extended the construction completion date for the City. It has, therefore, been decided not to pursue this additional track provision at this time. The extra widening will be completed at a future date, when train service warrants.”
But of course, not everyone agrees with the decision to hold the Jog’s next stage off.
“I think it would have been easier to add a few more weeks of construction and open it once and for all than open it now and have to bring the construction crews in again and spend more money,” incoming councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) told Torontoist. “The contractor said it would be a lot cheaper to do it right away…we need to be conscious of how we’re spending taxpayers’ money.”
While the controversy might cast a shadow over the project, it likely won’t detract from what is a pretty good day for Parkdale residents, transit riders, motorists, and the city as a whole. Now, if the City can just get around to fixing some of Dufferin’s potholes, perhaps the street will finally be able to rise up off the CAA’s yearly list of the province’s worst streets.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist, unless otherwise noted.