Coxwell station upgrade underway

Subway travellers who step out of Coxwell station for the first time might ask a simple question – where am I?

Coxwell station opens onto a quiet street, Strathmore Boulevard, which runs a block north of Danforth Avenue.

For anyone who doesn’t know the area, it’s not immediately clear that the narrow, dimly lit walkway beside the station is the best route from the station to the Danforth.

Now that the TTC has started renovating the station to add a pair of wheelchair-accessible elevators, local city councillor Janet Davis is hoping to upgrade the walkway, too.

“When you come out of Coxwell Station, you kind of don’t know where you are, just like many of the Danforth stations,” said Davis.

“There are no signs to say where to go.”

The TTC already plans to add new signage at Coxwell station, as well as brighter lights for the adjacent bus loop and walkway, new security cameras, plus steel fences to replace the chain-link ones there now. But Davis said the area could use more work.

Last year, former Toronto chief planner Paul Bedford and a team of graduate students joined members of the Danforth East Community Association to survey people using the Coxwell walkway and come up with design ideas.

They were told the path looks “sketchy,” and some people are afraid to use it. Among other ideas, passersby suggested installing a rounded mirror in one corner.

Davis said she is also speaking with managers of the Green P parking lot behind Coxwell station about putting up a subway-themed mural that people can see from the Danforth.

Meanwhile, contractors have already started work on the key part of the Coxwell renovation – installing two wheelchair-accessible elevators.

One elevator will go just inside the station doors. It will move passengers between street level, a concourse, and the eastbound subway platform.

Another elevator, installed below ground, will move between that connecting concourse and the westbound platform.

Building that second elevator is the biggest engineering challenge in the project – it has to go under the front yards of two homes across the street.

“It’s not easy,” said TTC project manager Stephen Stewart, speaking at a Jan. 21 open house at the nearby Kimbourne Park United Church.

“We have to work right up against their front walls to do the excavation, put the elevator in the ground, and then we’ll cover it back over.”

By mid-February, crews working on the elevator across the street will need to block off an extra lane on Strathmore, but it will still have lanes open in both directions.

By fall, crews will start work on the in-station elevator, which will mean closing the station’s bus loop for about 14 months.

During the closure, passengers getting on the 22 Coxwell or 70 O’Connor buses will have to walk to existing stops nearby, or to a temporary one on the northeast corner of Coxwell and Danforth.

While a specific cost estimate for the Coxwell renovation was unavailable, Stewart said so far, each of the TTC’s accessibility renovations on older stations cost an average of $14 million. The whole Coxwell renovation project is expected to finish by late 2017.

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