Union Station makeover hailed as unprecedented, amazing and complex—or, simply, a “big dig”

Union Station makeover hailed as unprecedented, amazing and complex—or, simply, a “big dig”

Union Station is set for a $640-million makeover (Image: Ihourahane)

One of the main reasons we like Porter Air and the Toronto Island Airport—aside from, of course, its proximity to downtown—is the passenger lounge. Waiting for takeoff is far more palatable with a free espresso in hand, even when flights are delayed. Apparently, VIA Rail has finally taken note, building a new swanky lounge of its own as part of a larger—and much-needed—overhaul of Union Station.

Quoth the Toronto Star:

The [overhaul], that is costing about $640 million, is so complex — literally groundbreaking — that experts say it’s probably unprecedented in Canada, where it is seldom used on structures as large as the station and virtually never when they’re still in operation…

A major component of the work involves building a new lower level below the GO concourses. The “big dig”, as it’s known, means dropping the lower concourse about four metres in the areas from Bay to York streets and then from Front St. south to the Air Canada Centre to accommodate a 14,000-square-metre shopping mall.

Although the new Panorama Lounge for VIA’s first class passengers is but one example of the many exciting changes afoot, our first thought is that the folks in the marketing department should really, really stop calling the project the “big dig.” That name already has a history, and it ain’t all good. That said, this effort to make rail travel a bit more appealing is a fascinating undertaking, especially given that most of the station’s current look screams “failed ’70s redecorating scheme, only without the redeeming shag carpets.” There will also be perks for GO and TTC commuters: for one, relieving some of the crowding at the Union subway stop—without interrupting the flow of traffic. Cue shuddering sobs from commuters on Roncesvalles and St. Clair.

Big dig a big deal hidden from commuters [Toronto Star]
Union Station growing downwards [Globe and Mail]
Union Station refit underway [Toronto Sun]
‘Dig Down’ looks to expand Union Station below ground [National Post]