Traffic woes persist even after a city street has been shut down for months

TORONTO — One of the busiest streets in downtown Toronto has been closed for months for what appears to be a massive office complex project gone awry.

The Chatham Street West closure started in January and is scheduled to last until at least March of next year, according to a notice posted to the city website.

The shutdown also extends north toward Leaside, reports the Toronto Star, and includes sidewalks, ramps and the intersection of Ontario Street and Bathurst Street.

Drivers caught in the disruption complain that black plastic cones blocking the way are difficult to see, slowing drivers and creating a headache.

“The structure is made up of rows of wooden pallets … it definitely slows down traffic,” said Jamie Horton, who commutes to York University daily.

“Nobody on the street has ever explained why this should be going on, and why it’s taking so long,” he said.

The Star found that at least 75 construction workers are still inside Chatham Street West at the height of summer.

City councillor John Parker said delays and construction expenses have added up to tens of millions of dollars for city taxpayers and the neighbourhood. He said the work is part of a much larger project going on across the city, one in which other roads have also been closed, and said the contractors needed to come up with better design options to fix the problem.

“This may not have been a problem that was supposed to happen, but to fix it in the short-term is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Parker said.

According to city documents, Chatham Street West, also known as Bathurst Street West, is undergoing a redesign, which includes asphalt replacement and modifications to other roadways.

The developer, Pavlos Salvagiannakis, did not respond to messages from the Star. He has previously said the Chatham Street West construction is part of a much larger project called Ripley’s Quay, and said it will provide parking for 70,000 vehicles, which he says is more than the number of people who use the street daily.

The Canada Lands Company, which is overseeing the project, said it is working closely with its contractors to minimize disruption to traffic.

“While we understand the frustration people feel when their lives and their commute are disrupted for no apparent reason, it is important to note that all construction at Ripley’s Quay is pre-planned, and with a design and permitted timeline that meets or exceeds standard rules for the work undertaken at Canadian Lands Company’s transit-oriented developments,” spokeswoman Danielle Belisle said in an email.

Two design options are available for public review and comment as part of a master planning process, Belisle said.

“Ultimately the advice and guidance of experts from the city’s Traffic Engineering, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services are critical to the success of this project,” she said.

“The Ripley’s Quay Master Plan developed with the city and the Ministry of Transportation will form the basis for the structure’s future build-out over the next several years.”

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