2010 Hero: The Dufferin Underpass
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2010 Hero: The Dufferin Underpass

Illustration by Jeremy Kai/Torontoist.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and the more than forty thousand passengers that ride the 29 Dufferin bus every weekday all have something to celebrate this year. After more than a hundred years, the accursed Dufferin Jog—the street’s old, jarring detour along Peel and Gladstone avenues—is now just an unpleasant memory, and in its place we have a shiny new underpass that at last connects the northern part of Dufferin to Queen Street West.
The seventy-metre tunnel has been on the books for a while. The City first decided to eliminate the Jog in 1966, but it wasn’t until 2008, thanks in part to the area’s recent development boom, that the forty-million-dollar project was finally given the go-ahead.
For locals, the underpass is a big win. In addition to improving traffic flow, the tunnel also means fewer idling cars, which in turn means less congestion, noise, and air pollution.
The underpass is pretty fancy-looking too, what with its crisp (and until recently, blemish-free) white walls, exposed retro-style steel supports, and brighter-than-day interior lighting (which, as the Star reported, is actually a safety feature).
Like many other David Miller–era projects, the underpass is more than just a utilitarian structure. With the future in mind, engineers designed the tunnel to support streetcar tracks (not that we’ll be needing them for a while). The City also decided to use some of the adjacent land freed up by the project to build an amphitheatre-style mini-park. And in spring of 2011, the tunnel’s interior will be spruced up with some mosaic artwork by Luis Jacob, the winner of last year’s competition for the space.
While it’s an impressive achievement of civic engineering, the underpass also reinforces the view that construction projects under Miller were poorly handled and prone to delays. In the case of the underpass, surveying errors and an improperly identified fiber optic cable ended up delaying the project by almost a year, and poor coordination with the TTC after the grand opening left riders unknowingly standing at a defunct stop. Even now, work isn’t quite done, as engineers still have to realign the railroad tracks running above the structure.
But perhaps delays and imperfect management are a small price to pay for projects that advance a vision of a city that is always seeking to better itself.