Streetcar Track Construction Update

The TTC agenda for April 18 includes a report recommending award of a three-year contract for “rubber encapsulation” for special trackwork.  This technique, technically called “elastomeric isolation”, extends the mechanical isolation of track from regular tangent rails to the intersections where there is much more vibration and potential for roadbed damage.

The TTC pioneered this design for special work installation with three test sites:  King & Queen (Don Bridge), Main Station Loop, and finally a large-scale project at King & Dufferin.  The impending work on St. Clair at Robina and at Oakwood, as well as intersections along the Dundas line will all be encapsulated.

Other design changes are in the works according to the TTC’s Jim Teeple:

Not only have we been evaluating the polymer used for the isolation, we have also been reviewing fastener and tie technologies as well. Our primary objectives are: life-cycle (including future vehicle fleets) , in-street construction timelines (panalisation to minimise disruption), reduced preventative maintenance, ongoing maintenance costs, capital costs, in roughly that order.

The St. Clair project this year will see Hydro working between Vaughan Road and Westmount Avenue (one block east of Dufferin Street) to underground its services, while the TTC rebuilds the streetcar right-of-way from Westmount to Caledonia (where Hydro services are already underground).  St. Clair West Station Loop will also be rebuilt this summer, and the work will include repair of expansion joints in the station structure.

The remainder of the line’s reconstruction (Vaughan to Westmount, Caledonia to Gunn’s Loop) will take place in 2008.  There is no word on the proposed extension westward, but this is included as part of the Transit City scheme.

In a previous post about the overall plans for special work replacement, I raised the question of why some intersections on Spadina were listed even though they are comparatively new.  It turns out that budget estimates are done based on formulas including service intensity and the time projected for special work to deteriorate to the point of needing replacement.  The Spadina intersections were built long before the move to mechanically isolate the track and this, combined with the extremely frequent service, will bring them up for replacement sooner rather than later.  However, the actual timing of the project will be based on actual conditions on site, not simply on a formula.  The TTC’s track construction plans change every year, and we may see the Spadina intersections move further out if they remain in better condition than expected.

7 thoughts on “Streetcar Track Construction Update

  1. I’ve been wondering when the shelters are going to be installed on Phase 1 of the St. Clair ROW (I live in the immediate area) as looking at those cement medians/dividers at the each of the new streetcar stops. I mean, was there any consideration to putting in new shelters right away?

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  2. Perhaps it is too late to start considering this, but would you know if it is feasible to lay hybrid dual-gauge track that will accommodate both TTC and standard gauge vehicles?

    Steve: There are two problems. First, the gauges are so close together that I don’t think it is feasible to have a three-rail configuration with one shared rail and a pair of separate rails for each gauge. Also, intersections would be a nightmare.

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  3. Do I assume correctly that buses will replace streetcars during this upcoming trackwork? If so, this is the ideal time to extend service on St.Clair west from Gunn’s Loop to Jane Street. This will allow an opportunity to judge ridership for this extension. At a minimum alternate buses could go to Jane.

    Existing service on St.Clair between Gunn’s Loop and Jane is broken into two routes, 71 Runnymede and 79 Scarlett. Runnymede is poor service during rush hour.

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  4. I don’t think the gauge is a problem. I mean, it doesn’t take much to widen the axels by couple of inches. Volunteers at the Halton County Radial Railway do this all the time. Far more complicated will be designing the new LRTs to handle the TTC’s tight turns, or gradually going through the system and widening those same turns.

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  5. Here’s a question. Are the new special work going to have both rails move, or are we continuing to use the single point? I heard that our simpler switches preclude some LRV designs, but I could be wrong.

    Steve: I believe that one important criterion in the spec for any new cars is that they can handle single-blade switches.

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  6. I agree, even if the configuration for intersections turn into a mess, it is a wise move if Toronto builds Hybrid Rail gauge then slowly phase out the TTC Special gauge since the rest of the gigantic city will be using standard gauge.

    If we sit foolishly and do not try to switch to a standard gauge, we will definitely pay a lot more in the long run for this.

    In the 21st Century, having a 3rd Rail Configuration must be feasible in some sort of way.

    If there is a will, there is a way! Something Toronto knew back in the 60s and 70s….but not today….

    Steve: Many cities do not have “standard” rail gauge and don’t suffer for it. I would counter that we have paid far more for our embrace of non-standard technology (the RT) both in ongoing maintenance costs and the lost opportunities of system expansion than our having non-standard track gauge on the streetcar/LRT system ever will.

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  7. I am wondering about this whole fiasco about standard gauge rail?

    When has our gauge ever caused anywhere close to enough problems for us to rip up the streets and start over.

    Lets face it, Toronto gauge is here to stay, manufactures will cope, or we’ll purchase our vehicles elsewhere.

    As for single blade switches, I don’t quite see the problem with them. Is there an difference with low floor cars, where by the trucks are no longer connected together?

    Steve: Some low-floor truck designs do not transmit forces across the truck via conventional axles and they require blades on each rail to guide the wheels into corners.

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