Late Night Ramp Demolition and Intersection Closure: York Street and Harbour Street
Demolition of the former York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp is continuing to advance more quickly than anticipated, and crews will be ready to take down the bridge over York Street next weekend, May 19 to May 22. In order to complete this work safely, the intersection of York and Harbour will be completely closed to all traffic. But I am pleased to report that no overnight work is planned.
As many of you experienced, last weekend the portion of the ramp over Lower Simcoe Street was demolished with a lot of the work being completed over Friday night and into early Saturday morning. My office heard from many people and families who weren't able to get any sleep that night due to the constant loud, disruptive noise of breaking concrete and other demolition activities. I know that even more people emailed the project team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or called 311 to complain.
Your voices made a difference! Due to the extremely high volume of complaints, the City and the contractor undertook a detailed review of the demolition plans for York Street and, recognizing that the Lower Simcoe demolition didn't take quite as many hours to complete as expected, determined that it will be possible to demolish York Street without any overnight work. Instead, the main work and full road closure will be spread out over four days, and some early evening extended hours (to 11 pm) will be necessary during the closure and in the evenings before the weekend. Please see the project website for full details: www.toronto.ca/simcoe-ramp. I believe that the additional traffic disruption on Friday and Monday is acceptable when balanced with the extreme disruption for thousands of neighbours that overnight work would cause.
Defending local liveability during major construction projects
I have been advocating very consistently to limit the hours of work to the daytime because these construction activities are essentially in the "back yard" of thousands who live right beside the old ramp. In order to ensure that our downtown communities like the Waterfront and South Core remain liveable, we have to carefully manage noise and ensure that people are able to sleep through the night. It is unfair and unreasonable to burden local neighbours with overnight construction noise, especially when the project will take several months to complete. Restricting the work to daytime might cause a few minutes of delay to drivers but they can always find a new route around the work zone – unlike neighbours who can't find a temporary new home.
Unfortunately, I do not have the power to directly determine the hours of construction. City Council, comprised of 44 members, has granted this decision-making power to the City staff who are managing the project. This is a systemic issue with every major City construction project. It is classified as "Necessary Municipal Work" meaning that the normal rules under the Noise By-law (no construction activity outside the hours of 7 am to 7 pm from Monday to Friday, and 9 am to 7 pm on Saturday) do not apply.
Despite this challenge, I have been able to secure important, meaningful consideration for the local community: right from the start and until the project is complete in January, regular planned work should only take place between 7 am and 7 pm from Monday to Saturday, with no work on Sundays. Any unanticipated, non-emergency work outside those hours is supposed to be communicated to neighbours well in advance so you can make any necessary preparations, but these unplanned late hours should be extremely rare. The two anticipated exceptions were the demolition at Lower Simcoe last weekend and the upcoming demolition at York Street, which happily no longer needs to take place overnight.
How you can help
In the planning of this construction project, there has been a tension from the beginning between disturbing local residents and inconveniencing commuting drivers. I advocate for the interests of local residents who stand to lose entire nights of sleep and have few alternatives. Drivers can always find a different route to where they are going. It is obvious to me that construction and demolition should be planned first around the needs of the local community, not commuting drivers. But with the decision in the hands of City staff who take a Toronto-wide perspective, facing political pressure from the elected representatives of those commuters, it is vitally important that your voice and your valid complaints are heard clearly by City staff and Mayor Tory. If they aren't hearing from you, they won't understand the serious negative impact that the work can have on so many thousands of homes. I can guarantee to you that they are hearing complaints from the commuting drivers. So please always remember to copy both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org on any future complaints about the Simcoe Ramp project.
We saw clearly after last weekend and all the complaints about overnight demolition that your voices do make a difference. I appreciate your support.