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Ongoing construction will squeeze throngs on Bloor

Will the turning floats make for a tight fit?

CONSTRUCTION mess. City staff are promising that the stretch of Bloor St from Church to Yonge will be cleaned up in time for the Dyke March and the Pride Parade. Credit: Xtra staff

An ongoing construction project along Bloor St E isn’t expected to cause major problems at this year’s Pride Parade or Dyke March, says both Pride Toronto’s executive director and a City of Toronto staffer.

“It’s a bit of a nuisance,” says Pride’s Tracey Sandilands, “but it’s part of a huge project and we understand that. We have been speaking to the city for quite some time about it now. Our program manager Jordan [Patterson] has been meeting with them and he says that the arrangements have been finalized and that there will always be two adjacent lanes open.”

The construction, which began work in July of last year, has caused traffic nightmares for months due to reduced lanes on Bloor St between Church St Yonge — the same route travelled by the Dyke March on Sat, Jun 27 and the Pride Parade on Jun 28. Both processions travel west on Bloor St from Church St before turning south down Yonge St.

“We’ll have the road open in time for the parade,” promises Gord MacMillan, director of District Engineering Services for the City of Toronto Technical Services Division. “The work won’t be fully completed, but we’ll vacate the road [of crews and equipment]. And we’ll have the road paved over. The south boulevard will be open, but sections of the north boulevard may be inaccessible at certain points to pedestrians.”

Sandilands says there was some initial concern about whether there would be enough space for parade floats — some of them large, flat-bed trucks — to safely navigate through what has been a narrow stretch of road, but she says that those fears have now been put to rest.

“We were a little bit concerned about the turning radius of some of the floats,” says Sandilands, “but Jordon has been up to Bloor St with the city engineers and… they’ve measured it and they seem to feel that isn’t a problem. So we don’t anticipate any problem with the floats.”

The construction project — an approximately $20-million endeavour initiated by the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area (BYBIA) — involves major reconstruction of Bloor St from Avenue Rd to Church St that includes laying down widened granite sidewalks, new street lighting, trees and flowers in raised planting beds and new street furnishings in a bid to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Work is expected to be completed this August.

“It’s the BIA’s project and the city is delivering the project for them,” says MacMillan. “The BIA is forwarding the majority of that money to the city to put in an enhanced boulevard.”

But even though the project won’t be fully completed by the time Pride rolls around, MacMillan says the area should be in suitable condition to accommodate the parade.

“We’ve been working with councillor [Kyle] Rae’s office on this project and we know the importance of the parade to the city. That’s why we’ve ordered the contractors off the roads in time for the parade,” MacMillan says.

But what about the onlookers? Last year’s Sunday parade drew an estimated 1.5 million people, with spectators taking up all available sidewalk space.

Sandilands says that even if there is reduced spectator space along Bloor St E that it shouldn’t cause a significant impact.

“There may be less space for spectators to move around than there had been in previous years,” says Sandilands, “but that’s just for that little section of Bloor St. Spectators can turn down to Yonge and take the whole of Yonge St to watch the parade. There will be space on either side [of Bloor St] for spectators, but maybe not as much as there has been in the past.”