Several downtown councillors are calling for more coordination on construction projects in the core in hopes of proactively boosting efficiency and road safety.
Two member motions are heading to council this week, and both cite the need for better planning given the high number of projects coming up, including at least 26 in the year ahead around downtown Yonge Street.
“When you have multiple contractors in an area, on all different schedules… there is a tendency to lose sight of what’s around you,” said Coun. Mike Layton, who seconded both motions.
One motion, from Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, focuses on the “unprecedented” level of growth around Yonge Street and the numerous projects happening to replace aging infrastructure, including watermains, TTC station upgrades, and streetscape improvements.
She recommends forming a monthly working group — featuring city staff and stakeholders like the TTC, developers, and local residents’ associations — to coordinate project planning and minimize traffic impacts on nearby roads.
Wong-Tam says, in part, it’s to make sure projects avoid delays, while reducing the chance street and sidewalk closures drag on.
“Just as when somebody is renovating a very large house, somebody is playing general contractor and project manager to make sure everything gets done in a timely fashion,” she said.
A second motion from Coun. Joe Cressy notes a variety of capital construction projects are also slated for the area around Bathurst Street and Wellington Street West, including the installation of traffic control signals, and similarly calls for more coordination and exploration of ways to improve safety.
‘Step in the right direction,’ says advocate
The push comes amid growing concern over the connection between construction-related traffic and safety for road users.
Earlier this year in midtown, a 54-year-old woman died after being hit by a cement truck, prompting concerns over heavy construction traffic in the area, particularly large trucks travelling through side streets frequented by seniors and school-aged children.
Previous CBC Toronto reporting has also shed light on the potential dangers posed by construction work to passersby, with provincial data showing there were dozens of reported injuries among non-workers — which could include pedestrians, cyclists or drivers — near more than 700 construction zones across the city over the last five years.
Last year alone, at least 15 incidents were reported, which marked the highest injury count in that time frame.
“Construction scenes are pretty chaotic,” said Kevin Rupasinghe, campaigns manager for advocacy group CycleTO.
He praised the councillors’ push for more coordination as a way to bring up issues that are often “ignored.” But, he said, road safety advocates should be part of the process as well, along with a greater push for accountability from developers.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” he added.
Wong-Tam agreed it’s just a step, and said councillors shouldn’t be forced to take a piecemeal approach.
“We should not have to move these motions to ask staff to coordinate this,” she said. “There should be a division in the city that takes a look at this active coordination and then communicates with everybody.”
The bottom line, Layton said, is that while a variety of companies and contractors are involved in construction work throughout the downtown core, it’s the city that should be looking at the bigger picture.
“We can make sure the right people are at the table,” he said.