Toronto’s Construction Boom Brings Road Safety Concerns
This September, a 54-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by a cement truck in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood of Toronto. The event caused an uproar among law enforcement and car accident lawyers, but didn’t surprise the area’s longtime residents.
Toronto’s Midtown, which is anchored by the intersection of Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., is home to dozens of major construction projects, including around 30 new condos and the multibillion-dollar Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Residents say the near-constant activity has created deeply unsafe road conditions, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.
This isn’t a new complaint in Toronto. The city is in the midst of a construction boom that has lasted the better part of a decade. Today, it has more major construction projects underway than New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or any other of the 13 largest cities in North America. There are currently 120 cranes at work across the city.
In one sense, this activity indicates that Toronto is flourishing. Investment dollars are rolling in, the population is growing, and real estate values have skyrocketed. But many road safety activists, car accident lawyers, and even city councilors believe the boom is coming at the expense of features that made Toronto an attractive destination to begin with, including community, livability, and safety.
Specific data explaining how construction sites affect road safety are hard to come by. Last year, CBC Toronto asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour how many non-worker injuries had occurred at or around Toronto work sites. The answer was broad: 50 over the last five years, including 15 in the first 9 months of 2018. The Ministry was unable to communicate whether the victims were driving, cycling, or walking, or describe the extent of the injuries.
A more helpful stat, also reported by the CBC, came from a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers spoke to nearly 700 people who were injured in bicycle accidents in Toronto and Vancouver and found that ‘construction sites were tied to a two-fold increase in the risk of injury.’
Anyone who’s navigated a busy downtown worksite understands the risks they pose. Pedestrians and cyclists are forced into close quarters with motorists, who are frustrated by the congestion and delays. Commercial vehicles – which are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal accidents in Toronto, including the Midtown collision in September – must also share the space.
In December, the city launched a pilot project aimed at improving road safety in construction zones in Midtown. If all goes well, the ‘construction hub co-ordination pilot’ will manage commercial vehicle traffic, provide real-time information for travelers, and minimize construction disruption in the neighbourhood. It will be overseen by a ‘hub co-ordinator,’ who will work with contractors, police, businesses, and residents to manage schedules and scale back the chaos.
“It’s about some kind of order in a very challenging situation,” said Ward 8 Councilor Mike Colle, who represents the neighbourhood, to CBC Toronto. “We have more construction here than anywhere else in Canada. We are just trying to make it less dangerous for pedestrians. Traffic management is a huge challenge here because of reduced lanes and because of the volume.”
“It will be able to ensure that not all of the heavy construction cement trucks, dump trucks, are in one area on a specific day on a specific week,” Colle continued. “It will basically ensure their coordination doesn’t just go off the rails here. It’s coordinate and it’s also put in a calendar, so they don’t all do the same thing at once and they don’t go on the street at once.”
For car accident lawyers in the city, this initiative is a positive step toward addressing a serious road safety concern. Toronto’s construction boom shows no signs of slowing down, and the Yonge and Eglinton pilot project could reduce accidents involving vulnerable road users across the city.
Midtown residents aren’t optimistic, however.
“I don’t think a pilot project like that will work effectively,” one man bluntly told the CBC, adding that “it’s indescribable how bad [the road safety situation] is.”
“I’d have to see it to believe it,” said another interviewee, wo works in the area.
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