Queens Quay West Reopens As A Grand Boulevard

After nearly three years of construction, Queens Quay West saw its official re-opening today. After all of the digging, the dust, the new utilities and track, the constantly shifting road lanes, and the construction barricades always somewhere, in the way, the street is now almost complete. A few odds and ends remain for cleanup in the fall, but you need to know what these are to even spot them along the way.

Toronto now has a new type of street – one with generous space for pedestrians, a wide separated pair of cycling lanes, a transit right-of-way and a two-lane road for cars. No longer a speedway (it’s amazing what years of construction can do to “evaporate” traffic), but a space shared among everyone. In these early days, some motorists are confused about where their lanes actually are, especially when turning onto Queens Quay from the north-south streets. Pedestrians have not yet quite figured out where to stand at intersections, and cyclists are getting used to their own sets of traffic signals. But with luck it will all work out.

The street itself is a cut above the usual for Toronto with patterns throughout granite pavers covering not just the public sidewalk but most of the private lands between that narrow strip and surrounding buildings.

Politicians who attended were suitably impressed, although the usual amount of back-patting (“look what my government did”) was inevitable, especially from the federal representative, Finance Minister Joe Oliver. The challenge is to get the same pols on board for the Queens Quay East project now that everyone can see just what the “new Queens Quay” is all about, and to have a more generous attitude to the value of good street design rather than minimalist utilitarianism, beyond the criticism of the most arduous opponents of “fat” in public projects.

One notable transit improvement is that the “transit priority” signals actually work, although I’ve been told there remains a tiny amount of tweaking to be done. For its part, the TTC has still not fixed the switches at Queens Quay & Spadina so that they operate automatically, and they are paying someone to do point duty there. The line has been open for months, but never let it be said that the TTC rushed into anything.

Here is a gallery of photos from the first day with all of the barricades down.