Think walking to work is boring? Let me tell you about the magnificent and majestic Prince Edward Viaduct. Walking to work, I cross it twice a day. It’s one of my favourite places in Toronto, hands down. I love heights, and the views from the viaduct are incredible!
What’s the viaduct?
It’s a bridge. Spanning the Don Valley, the viaduct is a very high (40m) and wide (~17.5m) and almost half a kilometre long.
Why was it built?
Basically, the City Toronto in the 1900s had its sights set on sprawling eastward, and the pesky Don Valley thwarted development plans.
The Bloor Street Viaduct, as it’s often called, was first opened to traffic on August 23, 1919. For history buffs, I highly recommend the City of Toronto Archives’ three-part web exhibit “Bridging the Don: the Prince Edward Viaduct.” I learned that the viaduct that I love so well is in fact only one section (called the “Don”) of three in this amazing project.
And the viaduct was effective in making it easier to develop Toronto east of the Don Valley. My neighbourhood was built circa 1913 as was much of Greektown.
What’s so great about walking across the viaduct?
The views! The panoramas! The vistas are phenomenal. It’s a unique perspective on the city. A great place to stretch your eyes, see the sunrise or sunset, or appreciate the structure itself. Did I mention the views?
Other features of the viaduct that I love include:
- Lookout ‘cubbies’ off the sidewalks – designed for walkers!
- A tower viewer (binoculars on a stand) oriented south.
- Railings pebbled with red granite.
- A natural wood handrail.
- The Luminous Veil.
The Luminous Veil
A steel-rod safety barrier completed in 2003 changed the look and feel of the viaduct. It has had a positive impact: no suicide jumps from the bridge have taken place since it was installed.
The barrier was named the Luminous Veil, a title which seemed mysterious until a system of coloured lighting was turned on in 2015. The elegant yet practical safety barrier was transformed into a true nighttime work of art.
It takes about ten minutes to cross the viaduct by foot, and the sidewalks are kept in great condition. But you might like to know:
- Sidewalks are cleared of snow and salted only after the roads and bike lanes have been looked after.
- Because it’s over a valley, the winds can really whip up and around – I’ve ruined many an umbrella, and occasionally have had to stop in my tracks because of the gusts.
- There is one poorly graded section of road just off the bridge heading west where a humongous puddle (a pond, really) is guaranteed to form in wet weather; the splash volume from vehicles is substantial.
Maintenance of the viaduct
It’s almost 100 years old. For the past year or so, the bridge has been undergoing maintenance from below. Recently I walked up just after a new gravel road across Playter Gardens Parkette had been laid at the east end of the viaduct. At street level, the only noticeable impact of this major construction project is occasional extra noise.
Walking may be the slowest way to commute, but I’m not bored when I walk to work. I have time to appreciate places I’m passing through. For me, the views from the stately Prince Edward Viaduct are an awe-inspiring “white space” within bustling Toronto.