Here's Why There's a Giant Pit in Front of Union Station
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.




Here’s Why There’s a Giant Pit in Front of Union Station

A look inside a giant hole in Front Street, where contractors are building Union Station a second subway platform.

If you’ve been to Union Station lately, you may not have recognized it at first glance. Much of the historic building is hidden by wrapping and construction equipment. The reason the station looks like such a mess is that it’s undergoing a kind of open heart surgery. Even as it remains open for business every day, there are at least four different construction projects all happening concurrently. The outcome will be a major overhaul of almost all of Union Station’s underground areas.

Though most of the work has been progressing behind the scenes, it’s been hard to miss the giant crater in front of the station, in the middle of Front Street, because it constricts auto traffic and confounds pedestrians. It does, however, have a purpose.

Earlier today, the TTC led members of the media on a guided tour of the Front Street construction site, in attempt to explain exactly how this enormous pothole is going to become, in one year, a new second subway platform for Union Station.

Why does the TTC want a second subway platform at Union Station? Isn’t one enough? According to Malcolm MacKay, who’s managing the $161 million project for the TTC, the need arises from two things: crowding, and short-sighted mid-century engineering.

Union Station was a terminal station on the original 1954 Yonge subway line, and, according to MacKay, its platform wasn’t built to accommodate the crush of people—estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000—who currently pass through the subway station, now the nexus of two different subway lines, every day. “The Union Station platform is the narrowest [one] in the whole system that we have,” he told reporters. “It’s 6.9 metres wide.”

By adding a second platform directly to the south of the existing platform, the TTC hopes to effectively double the capacity of the subway station. Passengers boarding the University line will use the existing platform, while the new south platform will be used for boarding Yonge-bound trains. This will divide all the subway-related foot traffic in two, which in theory should make travel more comfortable for commuters.

The bottom of that unsightly, hellmouth-like pit in the middle of Front Street is where subways will run, when construction is complete. If you click through the image gallery you’ll see a few pictures of what the still-unfinished second platform looked like as of earlier today (it’s in presentable shape, though it’s nowhere near complete), along with pictures of other parts of the construction site.

The renovations will also include some changes to the concourse just above the subway tracks, to improve the flow of foot traffic. This will include covering the outdoor “moat,” located between the GO terminals and the subway station, with a roof, to protect riders from the elements. Purely for aesthetic purposes, the TTC is also planning on adding what’s being called an “art wall” between the new platform and the existing one. You can see a rendering of what it will look like in this PDF file. The TTC expects to open the new platform in summer 2014, and the whole subway station renovation is expected to be completed shortly afterward, in early 2015. The rest of Union Station’s construction is supposed to wrap up in 2016.