Construction That Never Ends (Update 4)

Updated November 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm:

According to the TTC CEO’s report for November, the date for resumption of streetcar service on Queens Quay has been changed to June 21, 2014.  Brad Ross of the TTC advises that their website will be updated to reflect this new target date.

Updated October 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm:

According to the TTC CEO’s report for October (at page 20), service will not resume on Queens Quay until August 2014, not the end of June as previously reported.  I have asked the TTC to verify this date and explain why completion has slipped yet again.

The TTC memo listing service changes for the November and December schedule periods came out today, and it contains a few startling items:

  • The Yonge Subway tunnel liner program, originally expected to wrap up at the end of 2013, will now run an additional year to the end of 2014.
  • The loop at the foot of Queens Quay will not be available for service as expected in November, and service on the 510 streetcar will not resume until mid-February 2014.
  • The track on Queens Quay itself will not be available for service as expected in December/January, and service on the 509/510 streetcar will not resume until the end of June 2014.

Updated October 2, 2013 at 10:25 am:

Waterfront Toronto has posted a Construction Update for the Queens Quay project.

Updated October 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm:

Yonge Subway Tunnel Liners

I have received a note from Brad Ross at the TTC explaining the current situation.  The work has proven more extensive both in complexity and scope than originally thought.  In reply to one comment in this thread, I gave the opinion that all of the asbestos had been removed from the tunnels, but according to Ross, there is still some present and this adds to the slowness of the work.

The tunnel liner project involves the inspection of some 10,000 tunnel liners. To date, 4,000 liners have been inspected, 950 identified in need of repair, and 850 of them repaired. The process is not a speedy one as many of the liners are covered in material, including asbestos, which needs to be removed before a liner can be inspected. Add to that the time it takes for crews to get to the work location, set up, clean up, and return to the yard. As we examine liners, we’re identifying more and more that need to be repaired, mostly due to water damage. In short, the project timeline increases as the work involved increases. We are now working to determine what a reasonable completion date might look like and what the overall impact to subway service north of Eglinton will be over the next 12-18 months. Once we have that, we’ll communicate it widely.

[Email from Brad Ross, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, TTC, October 1, 2013]

Waterfront Toronto Queens Quay Project

I met with Waterfront Toronto staff to discuss the status of the project.  They have issued a construction update detailing the current situation.

Because the lanes occupied by the TTC right-of-way are essential as extra space into which construction or temporary road lanes can be shifted for utility work, the new trackbed cannot be laid down until all utility work requiring traffic diversions in an area is completed.

This work has been affected by a number of factors notably:

  • A late start by Toronto Hydro who did not receive funding approval for their Capital Program from the Ontario Energy Board in time to meet the original schedule.
  • Ground water conditions that at some locations were more challenging than expected.
  • Subsidence and resulting damage to existing utilities when areas were de-watered for construction access.  This was anticipated, but the extent of the problem is hard to gauge before the work is actually done.

The area around Spadina and Queens Quay has many utilities competing for space and for construction access.  Some planned work has been complicated by new, more stringent provincial labour safety standards for work near live hydro lines.

Most of the splicing chambers for the new track are complete, but one critical one that will feed Queens Quay Loop is inaccessible at present due to competing work in the same area.  This has slowed installation of the grounding cables for the loop which will tie back to that chamber.

The intent is to have the trackwork in the loop finished by yearend.  TTC would then install its overhead in preparation for service at the start of the February 2014 schedule period which will fall in the middle of the month.  The track installation will likely be done mainly in November, and partial shutdowns of the streets around the loop will be required.

There are three sets of special work (loop entrance from Queens Quay, loop exit to Spadina and the Spadina & Queens Quay intersection).  A preliminary plan for this might have broken the work into three stages, but Waterfront Toronto hopes to consolidate this into two.

A further complication will be the partial closing of Lake Shore Blvd. to complete the track connection south from new rails on Spadina.

Waterfront Toronto expects to publish details of the work schedule soon.

As for the tangent track on Queens Quay, the major constraint is that the space cannot be given up until utility work in a section is clear.  The intention is to build the foundation slab in pieces as various sections of the roadway become available.  Track installation would be completed in spring 2014, followed by overhead catenary, with a target date for streetcar service in late June.  (If the schedule periods for 2014 follow the same pattern as in 2013, this would be Sunday, June 22, 2014.)

Waterfront Toronto’s work plan for summer-fall 2014 will concentrate on the area south of the streetcar right-of-way which will contain the new cycling path, an expanded pedestrian area, and many trees.  Some finishing work will occur in early 2015 in advance of the Pan Am Games.

What is frustrating about all of this is that the delay in Hydro’s approval at the OEB was well known a year ago, and Waterfront Toronto has maintained rather hopeful dates for resumption of service that strained credibility as the construction wore on and on and on.

50 thoughts on “Construction That Never Ends (Update 4)

  1. Steve’s comment that there is a ‘hardstop’ on QQ schedule in the form of the Pan Am games, true no doubt, is also WT’s glaring middle finger salute to the rest of us who have lost our waterfront for too too long.


  2. The last time I was in Toronto I rode the subway past Wilson yard and the track at the north end of the carhouse was ripped out and they appeared to be digging up the ground north of the ladders to the carhouse. Are they doing major maintenance or are they putting in more storage track?

    Steve: More storage.


  3. I cannot help but wonder how much underlying work is still to be done on the TTC to bring it up to a state of good repair. What we are almost always seeing now is heavy construction in terms of things such as Tunnel Liner replacement, Pape Station modernization, Signal replacement, Track Bed replacement (Eglinton to St. Clair). This construction is dragging on for months and years. Sooner or later someone at the TTC will have to sit down and say.. its time we did a MASSIVE overhaul of the ENTIRE system. Bus it, streetcar it and hope to god things do not blow up in our faces.

    Things will get completed MUCH FASTER if they can do it all at once rather than have to do it 2 hours or so a night. 2 hours a night equals for 365 days a year totals out to 730 hours a year or the equivalent of 31 days. Imagine what we could get done if we shut down a large portion of the subway if we shut it down for 31 days straight? You could complete a years worth of work in a month.. that is worth some inconvenience in my opinion.

    If the TTC were to spin it to customers by saying that the month long closure will allow a years worth of work to take place via condensing the work it would go over well. People would see the advantage there.

    Steve: The TTC is actually thinking of more extended closures rather than trying to do things a few hours at a time. Some locations will be challenging, however, given the level of demand (e.g. the Yonge line from Eglinton to St. Clair).


  4. Yes well the bullet has to be bit to get things done. I am glad they are somewhat seeing the light and debating extended closures. I personally would rather take a bus packed in like cattle knowing I won’t have to worry again for a few dozen years than wait through endless construction and be inconvenienced for 6 years 🙂

    This begs the question … Is the TTC saving any money by doing these early closures on North Yonge?

    Steve: Yes, when they started this project progress was glacial because they spent a great deal of time just setting up and tearing down for a night’s work. However, the fact that the project is now stretching out a year beyond its advertised end (with rumours that 2014 may be optimistic) suggests that vital information about this work is not reaching senior management, or they are studiously ignoring it.


  5. In general, I like the idea of complete closures for short periods rather than projects taking years because they are done in off-hours and occasional weekends BUT if the TTC were to do things this way they also ought to try to schedule any other things in the same area and avoid multiple shut-downs. I realise that having multiple projects going on simultaneously may not be possible due to safety or liability concerns but if, for example, new tracks were being laid at least any work on the stations themselves that were being closed could surely be done. (As noted above, it seems a pity that they did not take the opportunity while King is closed from Parliament to Queen to add in the special trackwork for the streetcar at Sumach. Now King will need another closure in 2014 or 2016 to get this done.)

    Steve: The scheduling of the work on the Don bridge was very last-minute, and may not have given enough notice to put together a tender (done through the City) for the intersection work.


  6. WT has just announced that the rebuilding of the Spadina Loop will take 4 months and is to start on 15th October. (For a fairly small loop with track in only one direction this seems a VERY long time.) Once the track is done the TTC will have to install the overhead so I doubt the Spadina line will be operational to QQ until early summer 2014. Here is the WT announcement.

    “The reconstruction of the Spadina Loop is complicated because of the special track components required for streetcar loops. These curved pieces of track are installed in pre-assembled pieces and require a larger than normal construction staging area. Due to the location of the four curved pieces of track, the reconstruction of the Spadina Loop will result in detours for motor vehicles, TTC buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Each section will take approximately one month to rebuild with the entire loop completed in four months.”

    Steve: The problem is that if they could simply close the whole intersection (including Lake Shore and Spadina) as they did King/Spadina, it could all be done in one go. As things stand, there are three different configurations to maintain access to buildings and through traffic while each of the three sets of special work (loop exit, intersection at Queens Quay, loop entrance) are done. The time isn’t a TTC requirement, but the need to maintain access in an area that is already under construction for other parts of the project. But, yes, I agree, it is too long. There is no sense of urgency.


  7. All of the customer information signs in the Yonge line stations for the tunnel liner program were replaced over in the past couple of weeks, this time with no end date at all.


  8. I live very close to Spadina and Queens Quay. Construction went briskly and they finished the tracks into Lakeshore over two weekends. In the week that followed, there hasn’t been any construction at the site whatsoever. It reminds me of when they tore up the northern and eastern parts of the loop at the end of summer and then didn’t return to the site for over a month. Steve has previously said that that delay was due to waiting for Hydro to finish their work, and that Hydro’s work at the site should be wrapping up shortly. So why the delay now? Why 4 months to construct this loop, especially when there’s been no activity over the past week? If they would even pretend to work that would be reassuring. Rather they’re content to leave people living in a perpetual construction zone.

    Steve: You have not been paying attention. The track crews were working last week (I was there twice) adding the straight rails south from the loop exit. According to the construction notice for this week, work will now shift to location “B” on the drawing, the inside of the loop. This has been waiting for completion of splicing chambers for the TTC power feeds that are in the loop area. Once concrete is poured and set around the loop, then the tracks can be installed on top of that. I don’t know the specific dates for the remaining pieces of the loop on Queens Quay itself. This is dependent on some Hydro work that is close to completion.

    Although the original notice said that there were four stages each of which would take a month, the actual elapsed time will be less. Waterfront Toronto expects all of the new track to be in before yearend. The TTC will install the overhead in January, and service will resume with the mid-February schedule changes.

    Yes, the overall project has been extremely trying. If you compare the original plan for the work to what actually happened, it was a complete mess because Hydro is 6 months behind everyone else. You can blame the Ontario Energy Board for that situation as they held up approval of Hydro’s capital plans.

    However, the project manager rearranged the order of work where it was possible and some of the work originally planned for 2014 (such as new sidewalk paver installation) is already substantially complete.


  9. Well, Waterfront Toronto / TTC are now saying the Queens Quay Loop won’t be functional ’til June 2014.

    I think the word everyone is looking for is “pitiful”. Never mind the cold weather, look at all the many many months of good weather they had to do construction. I’m sure there’s plenty of finger-pointing that will go on (Toronto Hydro, Ontario Energy Board, blah blah blah). And yeah yeah, picking on the TTC is like picking on a sick puppy, I get it. But let’s get real here, whoever mistakenly thought the QQ loop had been closed for three years probably won’t be far off the mark by the time it finally opens again. What’s left to build … 1/2 the loop in 5 months? Come on. It’s like I said, perpetual construction zone. The TTC does not care.

    Steve: At one point, the TTC was saying that they would open the Spadina route to Queen’s Quay in May, and then add the Harbourfront route in late June when the track over to Union is finished. Now they seem to be leaving the whole thing until June. Frankly I think that the track at Spadina Loop will be finished long before June, and this is just footdragging.

    An additional complication is that the Spadina line will be operated with buses for the month of August while the intersection at College is rebuilt.


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