In 2005, as part of its continuing drive to maintain a state of good repair, the Toronto Transit Commission decided the time had come to rebuild the tracks on Queen Street East from Kingston Road to Neville Loop. This was the latest in a long series of trackwork construction projects along the 501 Queen route, starting in 2000 with segments through downtown Toronto, including the rehabilitation of the tracks on Lakeshore Boulevard through Mimico and the rebuilding of the bridge over the Don River.
The tracks along Queen Street had been deteriorating rapidly, along with the rest of the TTC’s streetcar network, thanks to track construction techniques set up in the early 1980s in order to save money. Track that was supposed to last for twenty-five years was falling apart early due to the use of untreated wooden ties set within the concrete foundation, pouring solid concrete track slabs with no mechanical insulation between track and rail, and the use of unwelded joints. This combined with the operation of heavier CLRVs (and the use of a particular wheelset at the start which generated vibrations that were felt in homes far from the track) meant that a backlog of necessary repairs (begun during David Gunn’s tenure as chief general manager) were required to prevent the streetcar network from collapsing.
The passengers of 501 QUEEN may have grown used to diversions of this major crosstown route, but the changes seen this year were significant by any standard. The work required the complete closure of Queen Street through this east Toronto neighbourhood. The diversions that resulted were so complex, the TTC established a web page detailing everything through the six (initially) five stages of the project. This article summarizes the project and the changes that resulted.
Phase One: Monday, March 21, 2005
The TTC started work on this project by storing the required rail on the Queen Street tracks itself between Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue. The streetcar lanes were closed to traffic and to streetcars. 501 QUEEN streetcars were cut back to Woodbine Loop and shuttle buses provided replacement service between Coxwell Avenue (looping clockwise via Eastern Avenue and Coxwell) and Neville Park loop. 301 QUEEN NIGHT service received similar treatment. 143 DOWNTOWN BEACH EXPRESS buses were unaffected (other than facing the delays that resulted from Queen’s lane reductions).
Phase Two: Monday, April 4, 2005
On Monday, April 4, trackwork on Queen East began in earnest, with work crews breaking pavement at Lark Street and Lee Avenue and proceeding east from these locations. Queen Street was closed outright at these construction areas, meaning that replacement shuttle bus service could not be provided east of Kingston Road.
To compensate, the TTC routed 501 QUEEN streetcars east onto Kingston Road, breaking the line into two overlapping sections. One section had cars operating between Long Branch and Woodbine loop, while the other section ran cars between Humber loop and Victoria Park Avenue. This arrangement continued seven days a week, the first time weekend streetcar service had been scheduled on Kingston Road since 1968. 502 DOWNTOWNER streetcars stopped operating during this time, since 501 QUEEN cars were doing most of its work, with some cars even short turning at McCaul loop. The 22A COXWELL bus continued to operate over its normal route, and service was increased and operating periods lengthened on the 503 KINGSTON ROAD TRIPPER route.
To provide a connection between the rerouted Queen cars, Queen Street and the Bloor-Danforth subway, service was augmented on the 64 MAIN and 92 Woodbine South buses. Woodbine South was operated later in the day and 64 MAIN was rerouted over a larger route to cover more of Queen Street. In addition, a new temporary service began, running from Victoria Park station, connecting with the Queen streetcar at Bingham loop, and proceeding to the Beaches in a giant clockwise loop of east on Kingston Road, south on Blantyre Avenue, west on Queen Street and north on Glen Manor Road and Southgate Drive to Kingston Road, where buses proceeded back east to Bingham loop and then north to the subway. This temporary service was special in that it received its own route number and name: 13 NEVILLE PARK.
143 DOWNTOWN BEACH EXPRESS buses were also diverted along Kingston Road, and followed 13 NEVILLE PARK’s loop to service Queen Street. 301 QUEEN NIGHT streetcars continued to turn back at Woodbine Loop and did not follow Kingston Road to Victoria Park. 13 Neville Park buses did not operate after 1 a.m. So Queen Street east of Kingston Road was without night service for the first time in years.
On the weekend of April 15-18, the TTC closed the Woodbine/Queen intersection to allow track construction to proceed, forcing the 92 Woodbine South bus to divert (64 MAIN buses were diverting along Hambly around this time as well). Southbound buses left the route at Kingston Road and Woodbine, heading southeast along Kingston Road to Queen Street. There, it looped via a short jog east on Queen Street, south on Northern Dancer Boulevard, west on Lakeshore Boulevard, north on Coxwell and east on Eastern Avenue to Kingston Road. Buses then proceeded northeast on Kingston Road to Woodbine where they rejoined the route and returned to the subway.
Phase Three: Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The pace of trackwork began to accelerate on this project, with the final phases being moved up. Phase three saw construction proceed east of Woodbine Avenue and Glen Manor Drive, pushing back the 13 NEVILLE PARK bus to loop via Blantyre, Queen and Beech Avenue. The 143 DOWNTOWN BEACH EXPRESS followed the same loop.
Unable to easily access Queen Street between Beech Avenue and Kingston Road, the TTC decided to content itself with augmented service on the 64 MAIN and 92 WOODBINE SOUTH routes, which returned to their normal routings. Passengers along Queen Street had to walk up to four blocks in order to access these services, 13 NEVILLE PARK or the Queen streetcar at Kingston Road.
Phase Four: Wednesday, April 27, 2005
By this time, track construction on the west end of the project was proceeding from Elmer Avenue and was nearing Lee Avenue, where the second construction zone had begun earlier that month. In the east, track construction had reached Beech Avenue, and the 13 NEVILLE PARK bus could proceed no further west than Kingswood Road. Thus its loop narrowed still further, and 143 DOWNTOWN BEACH EXPRESS followed suit. Between Wineva Avenue and Kingswood Road, passengers could walk as much as 5 blocks to access TTC service. That was still shorter than walking up to Kingston Road, where Queen streetcars continued to trundle.
Phase Five: Wednesday, May 11, 2005
By the middle of May, work had finished on track excavation and renewal from Lark Street to Lee Avenue and the only spot left unfinished was the work between Kingswood Road and Neville Park loop. Even so, the TTC was not able to resume shuttle bus service on Queen Street, and temporary service continued on 13 NEVILLE PARK, this time looping via Blantyre, Queen and Victoria Park Avenue. Passengers could now be forced to walk as much as six blocks to get to transit service. Fortunately, trackwork was well ahead of schedule.
Phase Six: Monday, June 6, 2005
Service on 13 NEVILLE PARK drew to a close after the morning rush hour on Monday, June 6. Queen Street reopened to traffic and replacement shuttle bus service could begin again between Coxwell and Neville Park. 143 DOWNTOWN BEACH EXPRESS buses resumed their normal route for the afternoon rush hour as well. Queen cars continued to divert to Victoria Park via Kingston Road, however, as the TTC put the finishing touches on the new track, and ran test cars along it during the days that followed.
Originally scheduled to continue to the end of June, the Queen East trackwork project drew to a close late on Saturday, June 18. Regular service on Kingston Road and Queen Street East resumed Sunday morning with the first scheduled streetcar departing Neville Park loop at 4:57 a.m. 502 DOWNTOWNER resumed service the next day. The 501 QUEEN route had a total of one day of normal service before new trackwork began near the Queen/Dufferin intersection, forcing diversions at the west end of the route.
Queen Street West Diversion and Work
On June 20, work commenced on the section of Queen Street between Noble (just west of Dufferin) and Fennings (just east of Dovercourt), with the section between Noble and Gladstone occurring first and continuing until July 7. This phase required diversions not only of the Queen streetcar, but the Dufferin bus. Queen cars used the tracks at Shaw to divert in both directions via Shaw and King to Roncesvalles (see flyer).
Dufferin buses, diverted to get around the closed Queen/Dufferin intersection, effectively provided temporary service on a section of the affected portion of Queen Street. Northbound buses diverted via King, Shaw and Queen to Gladstone, while southbound buses, unable to proceed eastbound on Queen, operated via Dundas, Ossington, Queen, Shaw and King, back to the route.
On July 7, the Queen/Dufferin intersection and the rail underpass reopened to traffic, and Dufferin buses resumed their normal route. Queen cars continued their diversion, however, as trackwork proceeded east from Gladstone to Fennings Street.
The TTC had originally planned to add east-to-south and north-to-west switches at the Queen/Dufferin intersection, but decided against this when it was realized that the downhill grade approaching the intersection would make these switches derailment risks.
Work was finished by the middle of August, and through service resumed.
Although most work to replace tracks on the Queensway private-right-of-way had already occurred in previous years, even this part of the line faced disruptions in 2005. Roadwork adjacent to the private right-of-way required the substitution of buses on this part of the 501 route. From 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 22 to 4:30 a.m. on Monday, July 25, City of Toronto roadwork on the eastbound lanes of the Queensway between High Street and Glendale Avenue required power on the adjacent overhead wires to be shut off, and buses to replace streetcars from Long Branch loop to Roncesvalles Avenue. Queen streetcars turned back either at Sunnyside Loop or through Roncesvalles carhouse (see flyer). Similar substitutions were scheduled for the weekends of August 5-7 and August 12-14.
The trackwork on Queen Street disrupted service for millions of passengers in 2005, not to mention adjacent businesses. As this article shows, store owners and restaurateurs fretted about losing their clients, but many took a stoic approach. Andrew Masuda, coordinator of Parkdale Village Business Improvement Area, said, “[Reconstruction] will have a very negative effect, but it’s a necessary evil. The tracks have to be reconstructed.”
The reconstruction was critical in maintaining Queen streetcar service into the future. The intensive work shoved into a single year concentrated the disruption in order to allow Queen streetcar passengers as many years of normal operation as possible.
Similar approaches were taken for other routes in subsequent years, with Carlton receiving attention in 2006, Dundas in 2007, and most of the non-revenue trackage in 2008 and 2009. By the end of this decade, the TTC will have caught up on a backlog of track repair that materialized in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a result of shoddy track construction starting from the late 1970s and 1980s. With the bulk of the TTC’s streetcar network now operating well-built, well-maintained track, the TTC will have reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining streetcar service in Toronto for the foreseeable future, just in time for new streetcars to arrive.
503 Kingston Road Schedule During Beaches Trackwork
503 KINGSTON RD. WESTBOUND BINGHAM LOOP To YORK via KING - 503 MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY A.M. A.M. A.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. 6.39 7.27 8.15 4.37 5.37 6.19 .51 .39 .27 .52 .49 .34 7.03 .51 .39 5.07 6.04 .49 .15 8.03 P.M. .22 NO SATURDAY SERVICE NO SUNDAY SERVICE
503 KINGSTON RD. EASTBOUND EASTBOUND on KING at BAY To VICTORIA PARK - 503 MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY A.M. A.M. A.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. 7.17 8.05 8.53 4.00 5.00 5.45 .29 .17 9.05 .15 .15 6.00 .41 .29 .17 .30 .30 .15 .53 .41 P.M. .45 NO SATURDAY SERVICE NO SUNDAY SERVICE
503 KINGSTON RD. EASTBOUND EASTBOUND on QUEEN at COXWELL To VICTORIA PARK - 503 MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY A.M. A.M. A.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. 6.22 7.10 7.58 4.17 5.17 6.02 .34 .22 8.10 .32 .32 .17 .46 .34 .22 .47 .47 .32 .58 .46 P.M. 5.02 NO SATURDAY SERVICE NO SUNDAY SERVICE
Thanks to Steve Munro for his kind assistance in correcting these pages.