GO Transit Pile Driving Ruled Unreasonable (Update 3)

Updated April 12, 2010:  Metrolinx has dropped the appeal of the CTA’s order.  The Star quotes Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne:

“This is about working with the community and repairing any damage that has been done and building a good relationship,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

“These transit projects are going to be going to go on for a number of years, as they should be. That means there will be disruption in the communities,” she said.

But the government is committed to working with residents to make the process as comfortable as possible, said Wynne.

Updated February 3, 2010:  Metrolinx, continuing in the friendly tradition of GO Transit on this project, appealed for a stay of the order of the Canadian Transportation Ageny claiming that their project would be unreasonably delayed.  Today, a court ruling denied the Metrolinx appeal.  When more information about this ruling is available, I will link it here.

Updated December 11, 2009:  On December 7, the Canadian Transportation Agency issued its final order requiring that GO Transit implement measures to correct noise and vibration problems at the West Toronto Diamond project.  This is an important victory both for the community and against the arrogance of GO who record of community involvement and sensitivity in the Weston corridor leaves much to be desired.

This will also set a precedent for the coming grade separation project at the Davenport Diamond, the crossing of the CN Newmarket Sub (the Barrie GO line) with the CP North Toronto Sub.  This work will be part of a larger upgrade of the Barrie GO service.

The original post from October 9 follows:

The Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled that GO Transit’s pile driving activities at the West Toronto grade separation project breach their duty to cause only reasonable disruption to the community around the work site.

The Canadian Transportation Agency finds that GO Transit is in breach of its obligation under section 95.1 of the Canada Transportation Act to cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable, in relation to GO Transit’s pile-driving activities at the West Toronto Diamond. The Agency found that, in the circumstances, the prolonged exposure of the local citizens to the noise and vibration generated at that location is unreasonable.  [From a summary of the CTA ruling of October 8, 2009.]

The full order is not yet final because GO Transit has been given 14 days to respond, following which the complainants (a local citizens’ group and the City of Toronto) have a further 5 days to counter whatever GO may file.

Among the salient findings:

  • Noise measurements by all three parties to the complaint show that people around the work have been subjected to ongoing noise levels well above those that, in a workplace, would require hearing protection under health and safety legislation.
  • Although GO has made attempts to reduce noise, the CTA believes that GO is not fully implementing all reasonable measures possible considering the nature of the noise and the neighbourhood in which it is created.
  • “The Agency is of the opinion that the speed with which the project can be completed should not be the determinative factor in the method of construction given the nature of the noise and vibration caused by this project and the impact on the community.  The Agency also notes that GO Transit has failed to provide any commercial feasibility arguments or financial impact analysis to support its position that extending the completion date of the project would be unreasonable.”

The CTA requires that GO:

  • Use an alternative pile driving technology and noise containment measures that reduces noise levels to reasonable levels wherever possible.
  • Restrict their hours of work to the period between 0800 and 1600 on weekdays.
  • Provide weekly noise and vibration measurements.
  • Develop a website, to be updated daily, to
    • communicate project status and notice of changes including current pile-driving activity, projected activity for the next two weeks, and any projected periods of inactivity; 
    • have an email and phone line “both to be answered by a person knowledgeable about the project and its schedule” with 48-hour investigation and response time; and
    • host the weekly noise and vibration reports, an assessment of any mitigation measures, any complaints received including the response and resolution, and any changes to the project schedule.

At this point, the order is at the “show cause” stage where GO must submit any arguments as to why the order cannot or should not be implemented.

This decision relates to the same Weston Corridor that is under dispute between various community groups and Queen’s Park.  GO’s treatment of the neighbourhood around the grade separation project  is an example of the poor “corporate citizenship” shown by that agency, and has contributed to the distrust in which any dispute between the wider public and GO is held.

Fortunately, the Canadian Transportation Agency’s job is not to make GO and Metrolinx look good, but to address the facts of a valid complaint.  We must now await GO’s formal response and the final form of the CTA order.

[I have not linked the full 24-page letter containing the CTA’s findings because it is a PDF of a FAX, and is extremely large.  When a smaller online version is available, I will link to it.]

27 thoughts on “GO Transit Pile Driving Ruled Unreasonable (Update 3)

  1. Finally, an agency that has the power to “order” GO Transit to do what is ought to be done. Let’s hope this plays out well.


  2. In the good old days the TTC used pile drivers building the Bloor-Danforth line. I remember the bang, bang, bang coming from somewhere between Dundas West and Keele. We were two blocks south of Bloor; I can’t imagine how loud it was for the houses just north of Bloor.


  3. Julius Caesar was wrong. Caesar said “All Gaul is divided into three parts ..”

    GO Transit has all the gall in the world!


  4. So absurd and shamefull that a community has to fight a provincial agencies – GO and Metrolinx – to get them to fulfill their obligations under Canadian law. Premier McGuinty and Transport Minister James Bradley will ultimately need to account for how these government agencies have treated Ontario communities.


  5. Now if this were say the OMB making a ruling that made a municipality adhere to provincial laws and regulations, would not people be screaming about an unelected bureaucracy messing with local matters?

    Steve: Except that the OMB as often as not makes up excuses for foiling the best intentions of the municipalities and communities appearing before it.

    There are lots of unelected bureaucracies — civilization wouldn’t operate without them. The issue is one of using the power responsibly.

    While we’re on the subject, GO is also an unelected bureaucracy which has no qualms about messing in local affairs “for the greater good”.


  6. Despite noise complaints of the pile drivers, is construction on the West Toronto Diamond Grade Seperation still progressing?

    Steve: Yes, but much more slowly.


  7. GO pointed out that the noise mitigation measures would result in the project costing more money, which means somone in the organisation decided it wasn’t worth the cost. That person should be found, and held accountable for their actions.


  8. Hooray! Now we all get to pay more for the same thing (these are our tax dollars hard at work here after all), that’s just Awe-some!

    What a victory.

    Steve: See my response to a following comment.


  9. Tom West wrote:

    “GO pointed out that the noise mitigation measures would result in the project costing more money, which means somone in the organisation decided it wasn’t worth the cost. That person should be found, and held accountable for their actions.”

    The problems with this are:

    1) Who’s money are we talking about anyway. Tax dollars are paying for the project and the more it costs to do the construction, the more tax dollars are used.

    2) If the budgeted amounts were too high, no work would have been started. It may have come down to not using noise mitigation measures or not doing to the work.

    Steve: GO claims that the original plan was for a quieter method, but that they ran into unexpected ground conditions that forced the change. Whether it’s our tax dollars or not, there is a basic issue here — this was not just a minor nuisance, an entire neighbourhood was rendered unihabitable and subjected to noise levels that, in places, would have violated health and safety laws had people’s homes been a “workplace”. The order against GO establishes that agencies of the Ontario government are not immune, much as they prefer to act that way.


  10. This decision will have profound implications on the remaining projects needed to improve the regional rail service in the city and the surrounding areas. Davenport Diamond, Strachan, Weston Tunnel, etc….for those of us who were hoping for a timely and cost-efficient completion to these improvements, that ship has unfortunately sailed.

    Even ‘quality of life’ restrictions placed on these construction projects (Monday – Friday, 0800h – 1600h) will not be enough to allow these projects to proceed efficiently.

    Steve: This entire situation came about because GO Transit discovered different ground conditions than they expected from preliminary engineering, and then were astoundingly arrogant about the importance of their work taking precedence over its effect on the local community. That sort of approach forces people to use whatever appeal process is available to them, even if it sideswipes future projects.

    Imagine if the effect were of chemical rather than noise pollution. Would you still expect that GO’s work should take precedence?


  11. I think most people can sympathize with the noise and vibration disruptions experienced by the Junction locals. However, comparing noise pollution to chemical pollution doesn’t make sense; the former being a temporary disruption, the latter being an immediate and long-term health hazard.

    Nonetheless, I stand by my statement that the future heavy civil projects will be greatly impacted by this decision (costs and schedule). I believe this to be a fact, regardless of where one ranks the precedence of the GO work.

    Steve: Severe noise can lead to an inability to sleep, not to mention major disruption to the life of anyone who does not have the option of just escaping teh work zone. Severe vibration can damage buildings. These are not passing effects, and that’s why I used a chemical analogy.


  12. This decision needs to have a profound effect on future GO Transit / Metrolinx projects. GO needs to be forced to conduct its construction in accordance with Canadian law. That is GO’s obligation under the CTA act and it needs to meet those obligations. No community in Ontario should have been subject to this callus treatment.

    It would not be acceptable to “save money” by building condos that do not meet existing construction codes and nor should be be acceptable to pursue construction that does not meet minimum standards in law that protects the health and well-being of local communities and businesses. Sound financial management ensures that all legal responsibilities of the project are met and that value is achieved in meeting those standards. Any project that can’t meet that bar needs a major rethink. Anything less is mismanagement.


  13. One can only hope that Metrolynx resigns itself to the ruling and tries to speed up the work in other ways if possible. It is important to get the airport link operating as a means of lessening the appeal of Porter Airlines which has the potential of doing great harm to the lakefront.

    Steve: Even with the delay at West Toronto, there is much other work Metrolinx can do in this corridor. After all, the airport link isn’t projected to be operating until about 2014/5.


  14. “Steve: Imagine if the effect were of chemical rather than noise pollution. Would you still expect that GO’s work should take precedence?”

    That sounds like the use of diesel trains instead of electric as decided in a shortened EA process that had zero real public consultation.

    See a pattern? Metrolinx is reaping what it sows.


  15. Updated February 3, 2009: Metrolinx, …

    Should this not say Updated February 3, 2010?

    Steve: That’s what I get for copying existing text!


  16. I live 1 km. away, and this mooring I heard the pounding with my windows shut! It was loud, and even when I put a glass of water on my dresser I can see the ripples ever so lightly. I can not imagine living next to this….it must be very hard indeed. I drove past the diamond junction during the warm season, and I noticed the workers wearing ear protection….what about the residents!

    I am not impressed with this blatant disregard for the residents…not acceptable! This is long overdue, and it should be been stopped long before it had to come to this ruling.

    I wonder if there will be anymore tricks that Metrolinx has up its sleeves to continue. Maybe the minister will step in and wave the magic wand and say it’s for the benefit of Canadians and come up with some sneaky policy that will allow it to continue……

    Steve: It’s really quite disgusting that an agency that claims it is so sensitive to environmental issues can so disregard them when it suits their own purpose.


  17. Community Updates
    Status Update — February 4, 2010

    At 6:00 pm on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, the interim stay of the CTA’s December 7th, 2009 decision ended. GO piling activity on site will return to full CTA compliance. The use of shrouded impact hammers in conjunction with other noise mitigation measures is permitted by the CTA order. For a summary of the CTA conditions, please see our outline of each condition.

    The Federal Court decision determining whether or not GO will be granted leave to appeal is still pending.

    We understand that this project has inconvenienced people who are living in this community. In order to reduce the impact of piling activities in the area, GO will continue to employ the reduced noise and vibration measures that have been in place since last June 2009. GO has also implemented the conditions in the CTA decision relating to website updates and noise and vibration monitoring.

    Approximately 80 per cent of piles have been installed.

    GO is taking a number of steps to minimize the disruption caused by this project by employing a number of sound mitigation measures when using traditional piling methods, such as noise shrouds, sound barriers, de-powering equipment, and rubber chasers. These methods are known to reduce noise by 50 per cent.

    GO is seeking to complete the piling activity as quickly as possible in order to reduce disruption to the local area and to move ahead expeditiously with much-needed improvements to the Georgetown South rail corridor.

    The completion of this project means a reduction in noise from train wheels crossing the CN/CP rail intersection located in the Junction and from the future corridor being lowered underground. This project will also mean less pollution and noise for residents due to fewer trains stopping and idling in the neighbourhood. Lowering the north/south tracks will lead to improved GO Train service and better public transit for our city.


    “The Federal Court decision determining whether or not GO will be granted leave to appeal is still pending.”

    So does this mean that they continue pounding becuase the Federal Court appeal decision is pending?…Sounds like it to me.

    Steve: This sounds as if the application for a stay pending appeal failed and GO will comply with the CTA order for now, but GO awaits a decision on whether they will be allowed to appeal.


  18. In addition to West Toronto and Davenport, there is also the depressed level track planned through Weston. Will the issue of pile driving also apply there?

    Steve: Probably, although the technology used will depend on the soil conditions.


  19. I see a little paradox developing here. The general public is obviously cheering for the applicants; similarly, the situation is projected as an improvement.

    However, did anyone ask about the train noise after the ramp completion and trains re-routed. The trains proceed at this time horizontally, whereas in the future they will have to climb-up the ramp and get down again (noise of brakes).

    Steve: They won’t be stopping on the ramp structure, hence no noise of brakes. Once they electrify (grin), much less noise of the engine too.

    As to the matter of the greater public good, I guess we will just start tearing up roads and doing open cut subway construction wherever we like because it’s for the greater good.


  20. Gordon Keith says:
    February 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    “In addition to West Toronto and Davenport, there is also the depressed level track planned through Weston. Will the issue of pile driving also apply there?:

    Steve: “Probably, although the technology used will depend on the soil conditions.”

    Since the plans showed that part of it was going to be covered over I would hope that they would do a cut and cover type construction where they dig the two trenches for the side walls, put in the re-bar, pour the concrete then dig down to the top of the tunnel and pour the roof. After this they dig out the tunnel and put in the floor. This type of construction should eliminate the need for much pile driving. The trench will have no freight trains so it can have steeper grades than found on lines with freights.

    Steve: I won’t believe anything until they do the soils studies. That’s what fouled up their construction plans at West Toronto.


  21. I think the real issue is that the pile driving is taking forever. I remember as a teenager seeing a pile driver driving sheet metal into a river bed. Even though there were houses close by, they only worked during normal business hours, they used a single pile driver and the project was completed in about 3 weeks. The GO project has been ongoing for well over a year and there is no end in sight, that is what has people in the area frustrated.


  22. GO is complying with the order since the Federal Court of Appeal decided not to stay the CTA decision. Work has continued, but in a manner much more humane and life has returned to normal for many of us living in the area. Since the GIKEN machine is so quiet, they can run it later and on Saturdays and it cannot be heard or felt at all.

    It is also clear from comments made by GO top brass, Gary McNeil (as reported in this blog), that they do not intend to expand the corridor beyond what it can presently handle for some time to come, giving GO the time they need to do the project right without ruining people’s home lives.


  23. This shows that Metrolinx’s methodology is suspect. Time to take a look at the rest of their plans again including the imaginary tier 4 “clean diesel” and the 407 For Profit SNC Lavlin airport link. Speaking of which, anybody seen a copy of that contract? No? Funny me neither.


  24. We appear to live in a city/province that does not listen to or consider the population that is being served. The belief that if we spend less money on a project “we” are being better served needs to be called out for the bullshit that it is. A project that serves the community needs to do all that it can do to allow that community to be served. Excess noise (it doesn’t need to be as loud as it has been) and excess pollution (diesel over electric) do not serve the community.

    These are just the latest examples of disregard for those who are paying for these projects through their taxes.


  25. Steve – this should have been a diaphragm wall project (in North America they refer to it as a ‘structural slurry wall’) . For this scale it would have been fairly inexpensive and would not have had the problems they did.

    From my understanding GO did not want this as the association with the TTC had a single bad experience with it more than 30 years ago – however that was proven to be because of contractor error. The rest of the world, including other parts of Canada, use diaphragm wall.

    Likewise, the pile driving nuisance may have been minimized if the contractor was enforced to use something other than diesel hammers which are infamous for their noise, vibration and smoke. Hydraulic hammers would have been a much better choice and would most likely have been more productive as well.


  26. My business is located on Miller St., 50m from the piling that has been on going for 3 years now at the Junction Rd. Crossing. Structurally my block and steel building is holding up, I however am becoming mentally fatigued from the on-going intrusive vibration into the work place.


Comments are closed.