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Perplexing utility poles to go – finally, says TTC

Their use has long expired and the lack of answers over why three utility poles remain blocking a live lane of traffic south of one of the city’s busiest intersections is serving as a reminder to the local councillor how slow the city can be when responding to nuisances.

Marching down Bathurst St., Councillor Dianne Saxe comes to a halt at the foot of a shiny metal utility pole firmly erected in the middle of the curb lane. “This entire lane is blocked, with a concrete barrier to protect a pole that is doing absolutely nothing,” said Saxe, gesturing in exasperation at it.

There are three poles in total, but all have long overstayed their welcome and usefulness. The TTC installed them as a means of holding up its streetcar wires in the middle of the massive redevelopment of the former Honest Ed’s site.

Councillor Saxe said it took months of haranguing the transit commission, Toronto Hydro, and the building owners to get the overhead wires removed, following the removal of construction hoarding for the building. But much to her annoyance, the poles remain in place and getting answers has been an equally frustrating experience.

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“I said to the TTC, ‘What is the problem?’ and they said ‘Well, we’re waiting for utility clearances,’” explained Saxe. “They told me this a week ago. How can you take more than a day to find out if you can take a pole out of the middle of the street?”

As of Thursday morning, the TTC was still awaiting the green light to begin removing this pole and two others. Matthew Bingley/Global News

“By law, our contractor needs the go-ahead from the relevant utility company/companies before they can remove the poles,” said TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green.

That’s not soon enough for building owner Jacob Spiro, whose lone property sits in the middle of the development after his family refused to sell to the condo developer. Spiro said the blockade often sees vehicles parking illegally due to the lack of proper signage, and its costing him business.

At other times, he said the streetcar stop near one of the poles sees traffic backed up for lengthy periods.

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“There was a big construction van and they started backing up and they blocked the streetcar for about 15 minutes,” Spiro said, adding he and co-workers had to assist the van in backing up. “I’m just trying to run my business and we’re trying direct traffic flow here.”

Nearby building owner Jacob Spiro said the lack of progress removing the useless poles serves as a metaphor for how effective city services are. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Late Thursday afternoon, Green confirmed the TTC had been given the greenlight to remove the poles and some of its workers could be seen at rush hour preparing for the work.

Asked about what luck it would take for the average taxpayer to get speedy results, when a city councillor was given the runaround for weeks, Saxe said it was all a matter of staffing.

“What it says is that we have too many duties and not enough staff to get things done in a reasonable amount of time, because there just aren’t enough people to do it,” Saxe said.

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