It’s either serious building work, or a deliberate attempt to move traffic around
A crowded street in Toronto has become a nightmare for thousands of drivers – because it’s been closed off to them for months in a slow-motion experiment.
Heedy Avenue northbound in the city’s west end, at the intersection of Dundas Street, was shut down for 11 months last year to a crew to build a 1.9-kilometre tunnel and keep it under construction.
The project, completed last November, was supposed to allow for faster travel through the four-way intersection, thus freeing up space for two left turn lanes for vehicles headed south from West Queen westbound.
The entire project, which required nearly 500 construction workers over the course of six months, was driven by a hope of reducing congestion, city officials have said.
During construction, Heedy Avenue northbound was also closed altogether, while trucks could only travel through it on one side. Pedestrians and cyclists also had to cross the street under the construction and in order to take the subway, and the huge number of people using Heedy Avenue suggested more lane modifications were needed, officials have said.
But months after the tunnel was completed, the entire street is still without any lanes and, frustrated drivers have resorted to forming slow, long lines to pass along busy streets as it appears there was no plan to get rid of them, mainly because people haven’t even moved their cars from the closed lanes yet.
Several drivers told the Guardian that the $8m project – paid for by the city’s street department – was meant to move traffic around safely, making the rest of the city’s busy streets seem smoother.
But other drivers said the loss of lanes was hardly necessary, given the ability of most drivers to crawl through the construction zone once they were pushed down one side of the road. The best way to conserve their time, some said, would be to slowly slow down and just pay attention to the traffic.
Authorities initially blamed the closures on a leaky pipe on the project, but this year have said the $20m was meant to be paid for by an outside contractor, and that the closures are being maintained in the agreement with the company. They have also said tunnel traffic will be allowed back on Heedy Avenue, which will then be completely closed off in another phase of the project.
The construction was the subject of controversy in the city earlier this year, when it was revealed that the expensive tunnel was only designed to cut down traffic during construction and had been completely left undone.
While the city is doing its best to smooth things over, the world’s media has noted the story. National Post is running a front-page story called “Why Toronto street is closed to drivers for 11 months without an explanation”, while the New York Post ran with “Toronto’s tunnel shut down so borough’s congestion can be alleviated”.