Some motorists, and the public in general, think that the City is not coordinating construction projects across the City.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the city has a very robust coordination and planning process that reviews projects before any work ever takes place on the street. Outside factors such as the shortened construction season, work by outside agencies and the sheer volume of the work is more responsible for the congestion we face every day.
One thing is certain: The city is facing an unprecedented amount of construction on our roads and it's causing frustration for drivers. That's because the city is updating a significant amount of its aging infrastructure including roads, bridges and watermains. Much of this infrastructure is reaching the end its service life and needs to be replaced. The work is critical.
And the City isn’t the only organization performing construction work in Toronto. Private companies are busy, too. The City is experiencing significant growth – especially in the downtown core – and this has led to a demand for increased services. More and more private development means that more services such as water and sewer systems, cable upgrades, etc. is necessary.
Plus, a lot of the work that you see taking place is private construction which also adds stress to our roads as lanes of traffic are taken away to accommodate this work.
And it doesn't end there. Organizations such as Enbridge, Toronto Hydro and telecom companies continue to add to their infrastructure. Since most of their infrastructure is buried under our roads, they need to cut into the roads to do their work. This often means lane closures and more stress on our transportation routes.
In all, the pressure on our road capacity is intense.
Instead of simply allowing work to take place wherever and whenever, the City plans the work in order to manage disruption wherever possible.
For this reason, Mayor John Tory established the Road Closure Coordination Working Group. Comprised of stakeholders including utility companies, TTC and city staff in charge of various divisions such as Transportation Services and Engineering and Construction Services, the group meets monthly to review road closure activity and ensure that every effort is being made to coordinate all road closures in the city.
And five years ago, the City established the Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination (MCIC) division that acts as a coordinating body for all groups – not just city agencies – that perform construction work in the city. MCIC connects with all groups to make sure that long-tem work is coordinated and that all agencies are aware of what other organizations are doing. Also, this coordination often enables the work of different groups to be bundled together, avoiding having one organization going back to the same street and tearing it up again.
But the coordination doesn't end there. Because of the sheer volume of the work and unforeseen circumstances at the time a project is scheduled, coordination is also required when work is ready to take place.
Here's an example, Perhaps, a recent sinkhole has closed a road that runs parallel to the street where road reconstruction is planned to take place. City staff would review the situation and make changes to ensure that work on the two roads is not done at the same time.
In this way, the City is able to get work done and at the same time, manage disruption to the public.
The city also looks at other ways to keep traffic moving effectively while all of this construction occurs including accelerating projects when possible, implementing signal timing changes on parallel roads and limiting short-term work on nearby roads.
Despite all of these efforts, it is impossible to plan for unexpected emergency work. Sometimes a safety issue will result in a lane of traffic being closed temporarily. Unfortunately, delays are often inevitable in this case.
Clearly, the city faces a number of challenges in getting all of the critical work done and accommodating all interests on our roadways. And, while the city is making every possible effort to minimize disruptions, there is no denying that delays will occur. However, the city continues to take significant steps toward getting this work done effectively through its short term and long term coordination as it enhances our transportation network now and into the future.