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Toronto street closure ushers in ‘Carmageddon TO’

Commuters slowly make their way out of Toronto as they drive north on the Don Valley Parkway

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Downtown Toronto commuters are anticipating two chaotic weeks of slowdowns that some observers have already dubbed "Carmageddon TO," as the city shuts the busy intersection at Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue for transit maintenance early Monday morning.

Though pedestrians won't be impeded, Twitter users have been circulating warnings with hashtags like #trafficjamz in anticipation of the blockage, which lasts until July 23 and which the TTC says is necessary to allow streetcar tracks, platforms and overhead wires to be rebuilt and replaced. Crosstown traffic is being shifted to Dundas, Richmond, King and Adelaide streets, though the last is already routinely backed up due to separate construction. Northbound and southbound traffic will be pushed to Bathurst Street and University Avenue.

But the corridor is a major pathway to the Gardiner Expressway, and many TTC vehicles are rerouting on those same roads, adding to the congestion that a Toronto Police Traffic Services spokesperson said is likely to "be awful" until late July.

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"Obviously traffic's going to be screwed," the spokesperson said. "It's a huge intersection."

Many shop owners on the bustling, trendy strip of Queen Street West are expecting their business to slow as the closing drives a slice of their clientele elsewhere.

Le Gourmand, a café on the intersection's southwest side, was surprised to see nearly two thirds of its business disappear this past weekend, even before the full closing took effect – as of Sunday, only the north-south streetcar tracks had been blocked off.

"It's been way slower than [usual]," said barista Ada DeSastris. "A lot of people pass through this neighbourhood and they're finding alternate routes."

It's a busy time for the café, which lures overheated customers to its patio for summer drinks.

And while Mr. DeSastris declined to discuss Le Gourmand's finances in detail, he indicated a dip in business of that magnitude could cost the owners thousands of dollars each week if it continues.

Matt Stokes, who manages the clothing store G-Star Raw just east of Spadina, thinks some hardship is unavoidable while such a major artery is closed.

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"That traffic that's coming from the west is pretty much going to be nil," he said. "You take [public] transportation out of the equation, you're going to see a huge dip."

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