After almost two decades of planning and delays, construction is finally set to begin on a $34-million project to liberate drivers in the west end from the obstacle known as the Dufferin jog.
The corner - familiar to locals but confusing for others - now cuts Dufferin Street in half at Queen Street West because of the railway tracks, forcing traffic to edge over to nearby Gladstone Avenue and Peel Avenue to continue north or south on Dufferin.
Soon, city officials say, it will be known for its brand-new underpass, which will take drivers, one of the TTC's busiest bus routes and cyclists in new bike lanes under the train tracks to reconnect Dufferin's two disjointed ends.
Gone will be some of the corner's gritty, industrial feel, replaced with new parks on both sides of the underpass, which will feature lit-up public art installations. The change comes as nearby stretches of Queen Street West continue to gentrify. The existing metal railway bridge across Queen, deemed a heritage structure, will remain.
The costly project has been on the city's books for years - public meetings were held as long ago as 1991 - but officials blamed the delays on the project's complexity, the required property expropriations and co-ordinating the reconfiguration of the tracks with CN and GO Transit. In the intervening years, major roadwork on Dufferin north of the jog was put off, creating what some drivers complained was one of the city's most potholed roads.
The city works committee recommended yesterday that council approve a $25-million contract with St. Lawrence Cement Inc. (operating as Dufferin Construction Co.), the lowest of two bidders by $6-million, to build the tunnel. If approved, construction could start in three months and finish next year.
While getting rid of the jog will alleviate clogged west-end traffic, city councillors and bureaucrats were eager to portray the project as one meant to help pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.
Councillor Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) whose ward includes the north half of the project and who is also chairman of TTC, said the improvements are expected to shave three minutes off the Dufferin bus time.
"It has to make two left turns and get caught in the traffic on Queen," Mr. Giambrone, the works committee's vice-chairman, said of the current bus route. "So that is going to be very helpful."