Toronto tackling traffic delays by expanding construction hubs, requiring QR codes at worksites

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Toronto’s traffic management team has unveiled a comprehensive plan to alleviate traffic congestion, with a particular focus on the challenges posed by ongoing construction projects. Toronto currently leads North American cities in the number of active construction projects.

In a report that will go to the city’s Infrastructure and environment committee tomorrow (Wed., Oct. 25), the general manager of transportation services says construction road closures coupled with “significant demand” for special events across the city post-pandemic require comprehensive traffic management strategies to minimize the impacts for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and transit.

Proposed initiatives, subject to council approval was unveiled by traffic manager Roger Browne at a news conference last week. Ideas are inspired by successful practices adopted in other jurisdictions and were presented after consultations with major urban centers including New York and Los Angeles, which have already implemented technologies previously unseen in Toronto.

One plan is to deploy the latest generation of intelligent traffic signals powered by artificial intelligence and real-time data to optimize traffic flow, encompassing all modes of transportation, from vehicles and public transit  cyclists and pedestrians.

Construction-related traffic congestion in downtown Toronto is a pressing issue, Browne said, with the city ranking as the third most congested in North America. In response, efforts to improve traffic conditions have seen smart traffic signals installed at 59 intersections across the city, as detailed in a report to council from transportation services. The report also outlines plans to introduce an additional 30 signalized intersections by the end of the year, including locations on Sheppard Avenue East, Kingston Road, The Queensway East, and Lake Shore Boulevard West.

“We are anticipating and planning for increases in traffic congestion as critical construction continues and even more gets underway,” Browne said, adding Toronto currently has more ongoing projects than any other North American city. “These things that we are going to be pursuing over the coming months, pending council approval, are things that are tried, tested and true in other jurisdictions. We have been doing a lot of consultations with big cities like New York  and Los Angeles, which have already started using some of this technology that Toronto’s never seen,” he told reporters.

The upcoming report also recommends a new program that would require construction sites to clearly post QR codes that can be scanned with a smartphone to provide real-time information including the company doing the work, the nature and duration of closures, and a 24/7 emergency contact number.

If approved by council, the city would also expand the downtown, east harbour, Lake Shore West and Yonge-Eglinton construction hubs and add three new hubs in Etobicoke Lakeshore, Willowdale and Beaches-East York.

Work within the hubs have a specific fee structure, as the city dedicates additional resources to traffic management within their boundaries.

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