Toronto to re-consider timing of work at major intersections, communication after Yonge-Bloor mess

After confusion over contractor work at Yonge St and Bloor St W, Toronto Mayor John Tory is promising to take a closer look at closures of major intersections.

The mayor made the pledge during his monthly drop-in on Ryan Doyle and Jay Michaels on NEWSTALK 1010's The Rush.

At 10:24 a.m. Tuesday, Toronto Police tweeted that intersection would be "closed for a few hours in all directions".

There had been no advance warning of a shutdown at one of the busiest intersections in the city.

But it never was closed. 

Traffic lights were turned off to allow an electrician to safely replace a hydro pole and a paid duty officer guided drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists through the intersection. A single southbound lane was blocked which the contractor had city permission to do.

Late Wednesday afternoon, police apologized for the confusion and conceded they shared the closure based on incorrect information relayed to them at the time. 

Police did not clarify what was going on during the four hours the on scene work continued. Neither did city, which sent a bylaw enforcement officer to check things out and had staffers monitor Yonge and Bloor by video to verify that there was no closure.

On Wednesday, city of Toronto spokesperson Eric Holmes could not explain what lead the city to believe there had been a shutdown of the intersection without a permit in the first place.

"City staff were made aware of an unauthorized closure of the intersection at Bloor St. and Yonge St. by a third party contractor," Holmes wrote to NEWSTALK 1010 Tuesday afternoon. "An enforcement officer was deployed and it is expected that appropriate action will be taken."

It isn't clear how up to speed the city and police were ahead of time on what was being done and how it would affect traffic flow. Holmes says the city has been looking at how to "tighten up" communication.

"Yesterday's event is a good example that we have more work to do," Holmes says.

The electrical work at Yonge and Bloor was deliberately scheduled between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., outside of peak travel times. Holmes suggests the timing may have been why the public didn't get a head's up about a disruption that traffic maps show significantly slowed car traffic.

"If you're talking about other major events that are taking place oftentimes, they're happening during prime time hours," Holmes said.

All the confusion sparked questions in the mayor about whether it makes sense to allow similar work during the daytime at all.

"Even though we have a rule now that does direct all of this non-emergency work away from rush hour, a big intersection may well be a further exception to say in no circumstances, during say, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or something like that should they be closed at all unless it's an emergency," Tory tells the Rush.