Dufferin is Jogging Away From Its Past
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Dufferin is Jogging Away From Its Past

A rendering of what the completed Dufferin Street underpass will look like from the southwest corner of Dufferin Street and Queen Street West.

For more than a century, Dufferin Street’s detour along Peel and Gladstone avenues—commonly known as the Dufferin Jog—has been a defining feature of West Queen West, and an ever-growing nuisance for vehicles (especially TTC buses), nearby residents, and developers. The jog first came into existence in 1884, when Dufferin Street was cut in half to make room for the railway lines that currently run over Queen Street West. Since 1966, the City has had plans on the books to eliminate the jog, but the Dufferin Street underpass was only given the go-ahead recently due in part to West Queen West’s redevelopment.
Torontoist stopped by the construction site last weekend, as engineers were lifting the bridges to their new height, and later had the opportunity to talk with Jim Schaffner, senior project engineer at the City’s Structures and Expressways Department, about the final stages of the forty-million-dollar project.

A rendering of what the completed project will look like from the south side of Dufferin Street.

“The work we’re doing at the moment is to construct an underpass underneath the rail lines to connect Dufferin Street on the north side of Queen Street to the south side of Queen Street,” explained Schaffner. “Stage one of the work was to move the rail tracks to the south side of the site, divert the rail traffic to the south, and then construct the north half of the underpass. That stage of the work is now complete. We’ve flipped the tracks over, so the tracks are now on the north side of the newly completed underpass, and we’re now working on the south side.”

The bridges, before and after they were raised by hydraulic jacks. Photos by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.

Over the weekend, workers used hydraulic jacks to raise the bridges about a metre—the clearance necessary to connect the new underpass with Queen Street West. The rail lines that run over the bridges have been removed and will now stay out of service until the project is complete.
“I’m thrilled that the project is finally underway,” Ward 18 Councillor, TTC Chair, and mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone told Torontoist. “The community will benefit from this project through improved transit service, better traffic flow, as well as improved safety conditions for both pedestrians and cyclists. Regarding transit, yes there will be improvement to the Dufferin bus route, but it is also worth noting that the Queen streetcar route will also experience some improvement. Both routes will be able to clear this intersection faster than they can currently.”

An overhead view of the final project.

The Dufferin underpass is also being designed to accommodate streetcar tracks. But as Danny Nicholson, the TTC’s corporate communications supervisor, told us, “there are no current plans to build tracks through the underpass.”
Of course, no City of Toronto project is complete these days without provisions for a public art display and additional green space, so accordingly, the underpass will feature trippy tie-dyed mosaic art by Luis Jacob, the winner of last year’s public art competition for the space, and an amphitheatre-style park on the north side of the intersection.

A photo of Dufferin Street and Queen Street West, 1897. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 376, File 2, Item 10.

Like many of Toronto’s current transit headaches, the jog is a relic of the days when railway companies dictated policy to the city with impunity, snapped up all the best lands for their use, and divided communities with little regard for their inhabitants. “Parkdale and West Queen West are really neat, but there’s this dead space between them,” Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) told us. “I think this is going to connect them and make them just one continuous and lovely place.”
The City plans to break through the wall on the north side of Queen Street West in February and hopes to have the project complete by July 2010.
All renderings courtesy of Delcan [PDF].

CORRECTION: JANUARY 27, 2010 The first rendering in this post is from the vantage point of the southwest corner of Queen and Dufferin, not the northwest corner as originally stated.