Queensway / Lake Shore / Humber Update

Construction work on The Queensway, Lake Shore Boulevard and at Humber Loop ran into a number of problems and design changes that will affect the date when streetcar service will be restored west of Sunnyside Loop. These include:

  • An unexpectedly high water table south of Grenadier Pond
  • Difficulty in concrete removal for some of the track on Lake Shore
  • Design changes at Humber Loop to address various issues that were not picked up in the original project.

Richard Wong, the Head of Streetcar Maintenance and Infrastructure, advises:

There is a higher than expected water table along the stretch of the Queensway from Ellis Ave to Colborne Lodge Dr.  Construction started to the east of Colborne Lodge and should have progressed westerly towards Humber Loop.

Due to the water table issue, construction proceeded westerly to Colborne Lodge Dr. where it had to be suspended.  To allow engineers time to evaluate the situation and develop a solution, construction then resumed to the west of Ellis Ave and will move westerly to Humber Loop.  Construction between Colborne Lodge and Ellis will resume at the tail end of this project.  In total, there is approximately 2 months of slippage in the schedule for this part of the Queensway project.  This slippage may affect the Q2 2018 commitment of reinstating streetcar service from Roncesvalles to Humber Loop.  TTC staff is working with the contractor to investigate options to recover time.

With respect to the Lakeshore, construction was slow and was expected in the area that is currently being worked on.  This is due to the type of concrete.  Concrete in this area was originally poured in one batch (monolithic pour).  Monolithic concrete requires chipping to break it up.  This method of removing old concrete is time consuming and messy.  As construction continues to move east, TTC expects to move from monolithic concrete to layered concrete.  That is, during TTC’s last track replacement program, concrete was poured in layers and separated by bonding agent.  This allows the concrete to be cleanly milled down to an exact depth.  Milling work is faster and more accurate which will speed up construction time.  At the moment, TTC staff do not anticipate slippage in schedule for this project. [Email of August 30, 2017 via TTC’s Brad Ross, Executive Director – Corporate Communications]

The CEO’s Report in the September 5 Board agenda includes a project status page for surface track work including this project, and some of the remarks on it prompted me to delve further. [See p77 of the report which is p79 in the linked PDF.]

From the project status page:

Anticipated completion for the Humber Loop project has been moved to Q2 2018 due to the following unmitigated risks:

  • condition of Metrolinx bridge struts is unknown
  • unknown condition and location of some utilities
  • several third party approvals are required in order work to proceed

Management Action Plan:

  • alternate track structure design in progress to mitigate deteriorated struts
  • leveraged Executive support to expedite third party approvals
  • work has been phased to allow return of the Queen St portion of the 501 route to Humber Loop by Q1 of 2018

The TTC replied:

There were a number of challenges that resulted in more time needed for the completion of Humber Loop, as it is is directly adjacent to the following infrastructure:

  • CN/GO rail lines
  • Gardiner Expressway
  • Hydro Towers and Vaults
  • Condominium Development

It is also constructed on re-claimed land.  As a result, numerous 3rd party design reviews and approvals were required.  These included:

  • Hydro One
  • Metrolinx
  • City of Toronto (Forestry, Transportation, Water)
  • Toronto & Region Conservation Authority
  • Ministry of Environment

During these reviews and approvals, stakeholders (including internal TTC stakeholders) identified opportunities to combine initiatives during this construction, including:

  • Investigation of the Gardiner Expressway underpass struts (& potential remediation)
  • Reconfiguration of the underpass walkway
  • Inclusion of additional spur tracks to accommodate the new LFLRV lengths
  • Improved landscaping of the loop

Due to the above challenges and opportunities, additional time was added to the construction schedule to ensure we capture all of the requirements. [Email of August 31, 2017 from Brad Ross]

The current status of construction on The Queensway as of August 31 is:

  • Parkside to Colborne Lodge: Track installation completed. Overhead poles in place.
  • Colborne Lodge to Ellis Avenue: Minimal work completed due to water table problems.
  • Ellis Avenue to South Kingsway: Right-of-way grading and pole base installation in progress. Track formerly stored between Windermere and South Kingsway has been moved to the streetcar lanes in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
  • Humber River Bridge: The centre span used by streetcars has been rebuilt, but is temporarily hosting all road traffic while the north (westbound) and south (eastbound) spans and approach ramps are under construction. This work has progressed to the point that some concrete placement has been done.
  • Humber Bridge to Humber Loop. Pole base installation in progress.

On Lake Shore, demolition of the track from Dwight Ave eastward has crossed Symons Road which was expected to be the point where there is a transition from monolithic concrete to discrete layers. New track is in place from Dwight to approximately Lake Crescent.

For updated construction photos, please see my article with galleries tracking this work.

The long-suffering riders of the 501 bus service west of Sunnyside will have to deal with this arrangement for several more months and will not see streetcar service until mid-2018. This will all get nicely settled until 2019 when the project to rebuild King/Queen/Roncesvalles will be launched together with construction of a streetcar right-of-way from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles.


17 thoughts on “Queensway / Lake Shore / Humber Update

  1. Thanks for the update.

    Yes, I had noticed that at the Royal York end, the concrete was removed down to the soil (sand), rather than just the top layer being taken off.

    A high water table beside Grenadier Pond — who woulda thunk it? I think before The Queensway was constructed, that was a marshy southern extension of the pond. It really seems to me like this project suffers from massive overdesign and overcomplication.

    I wonder if concreting the track bed will continue on the side-of-road ROW just east of Humber loop, in Humber loop itself, and in the tracks under the railway and Gardiner bridge out to Lake Shore.

    To follow up on a discussion earlier, there were posters assuring us that the trees that were removed to do the concrete on The Queensway were diseased and had to go anyway. The TTC, in its construction notice, says that “269 deciduous trees on the narrow turf boulevard along the north and south side of the streetcar r-o-w will be removed. While the majority of the trees are in good condition, they are in the path of construction and will be affected by construction work/activities.” This agrees with my observations. And it seems that the TTC was caught off-guard by the wide-spread criticism of this removal, hence a formal, titled section in the notice dedicated to the fate of trees (perhaps a first for TTC notices).


  2. Yes, it should really not have been a surprise that the area between Grenadier Pond and the Lake was marshy. OK, the Lake has been higher this year but …

    These examples of poor planning really do get the City a poor reputation for project management and encourage those who never want to do anything! (Another egregious and recent example is the amazing cost increases in the Liberty Village pedestrian bridge – apparently because nobody seemed to remember about AODA. (The project construction estimate has increased from $4.800 million to $11.830 million as a result of Metrolinx design requirements and the need to meet accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). )


  3. One wonders if all of the additional time, effort, and money spent on the reconfiguration of the existing facilities couldn’t have been more productively used to build a new loop out at Park Lawn.


  4. So it looks like we’ll end up with an improved loop with better landscaping. But no plan to replace the existing shelter structure with something more robust and well-lit?

    Steve: I believe there is to be a new shelter too, but with design changes at the loop, I don’t know what will be there. More info when I have it.


  5. Steve: I believe there is to be a new shelter too, but with design changes at the loop, I don’t know what will be there.

    How about parking an old retired CLRV off-track! Cheap. Nice seats. Kids can play motorman!


  6. It does feel pretty dismal doesn’t It?

    For me, the larger issues aren’t so much the ‘oops’ factors within the existing project, but the years to decades of ‘oops’ in missing the need for faster transit in from this area to the core, a west end relief for Bloor, King, Queen, GO, Lakeshore and Gardiner.

    The pinch point at the base of High Park was seen as such as early as 1949 or so, perhaps earlier. All of the people and vehicles that wish to enter in to the city core from points west need to squeeze through the narrow corridor, and it should mean transit, especially for the bulk of the people. It won’t be attractive as a slow milk run; speed (and thus fewer stops) is key.

    Sadly we don’t have much of any real planning of any type it sure feels like – and blame both the City and the Province through the OMB’s Only More Building approval process regardless of the overloads of collective facilities like transit, and how narrow roads are, and how truly pathetic the provision of improved transit actually is.

    Now that it’s becoming evermore apparent that the Suspect Subway Extension is truly Suspect – almost need to buy hardcopy of today’s Sat. Star for this – we must be exploring what can be done in a clearly recognized corridor for improving transit for the last century or so – the east-west travel demand in our old core. And we need new corridors vs. the tinkering with King St. which is something, but less OK and fair in some ways vs. what was seen in the 1985 DRL vision of a new and robust transit corridor on nearby Front St.

    We can’t build a subway fast enough, even if we could get it in the more correct place this being Moronto and how the core is outvoted by the suburban folks, often electing Clowncillors. So we need a new corridor – linking between the pinch point and much of the density of the core – and surface is faster and cheaper, but where and how?

    A starting point is to adjust our thinking a little bit, given that we are in Moronto. Let’s borrow an idea from Jarvis St – the reversible lane for the privileged, but apply it to transit thinking. And I think that means we should develop a starting point plan for a faster reversible transitway from this pinch point to the core, and start it off with bus transit only, though larger buses work fine. I’m thinking we need to be ensuring a crossover from the Roncesvalles area over the tracks and roads to the south side to begin to pick up and serve the Ex and Lakefront, but crossing back over all of the train/roads before Dufferin to access and serve the Liberty Village area with one, two or three stops even as it is under-served. (The ability and ease to deck over the railtracks in the core, proposed by both rail companies and the City, means that it should be very easy to do it out in Parkdale, unless we value some advertising more than transit).

    Sadly, here we get in to how we’ve squandered years and decades by refusing to stake out a transit corridor being so carrupted to think only cars make transport. So there are plenty of new condos going up in the needed segments of a new RofW east of Strachan where the lowering of the railtracks for ending the level crossings made a transitway crossover so very much easier and cheaper – if we’d been thinking about it. Pardon me, I’ve been a bit focussed on trying to get a Bloor bike lane where it’s been 12 years of slogging to get a third done of what was to be studied a decade ago, forgetting about the 1992 study (of course).

    This dismal moreass isn’t necessarily the fault of those on the front lines of trying to do things, but must get to both the politicians and those who elect them. And Fordwards was backwards. And would be again. It doesn’t help that sometimes the progressives aren’t very much in to the transit options either, with local politricks arising readily ie. Gord and Mike are supporting the local road of the Front St. Extension with zero interest in looking at how key this segment is for a proper, robust, ancient (in terms of proposal ie. 1985) transitway.

    Front St. is wide in the core, and also very close to King and Queen and has a great density of destinations.

    Regardless of mode, as Steve has pointed out, vehicles have to be able to turn around and go back to whence they came, so the parallel nature of King/Queen etc. makes it really easy for all of the vehicles (of any type) to return to the west end, or with afternoon times, head back in to the core. It is thus possible to think of a reversible transitway as a starting point as we are in a set of crises, may gas go up another 30 cents a litre, hardly enough given the climate crisis.

    One further measure is to ensure that we have safer cycling – currently the bike lane in on the south side of the Queensway ends at a pinch point before Roncesvalles. Horrible, and typical. Better biking is also a good part of the mobility solutions, and it has to be safer in some longer and specified/useful/fast corridors for it to truly arise as the broad fix that it can be.

    Steve: The idea of a flyover at Ronces was proposed as one alternative for the Waterfront West LRT, but that is even more of a pinch point that south of High Park. There will be a public meeting later in September or October with the recommended alternative route. Stay tuned.

    Front Street is not wide in the core. Have you looked east of York Street recently? The redesign was intended to recognize that this is an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.


  7. The sandbar at the south end of Grenadier Pond/High Park was very narrow. How narrow? About the width of two of the railway tracks and about two lanes of Lake Shore Blvd.. The pond lapped upon the north side of the railway tracks. They had to landfill the south side to put in a roadway. See here and here.

    The added landfill for the Sunnyside Amusement Park, which was subsequently used for Gardener Expressway. See here and here.

    The pond was filled in for The Queensway.


  8. Thanks Steve, There is a bit more room to Front St. west of University. Almost another lane. If one adds in the remnant strip of the Lands and Garden trust on south side of Front from Spadina to Bathurst, it is wider, and it’s sad that we never did manage to build faster transit here. Now it seems too late, though the need is dire, including a faster option to King St., so it can be shut down for a polluting film fest.


  9. I notice that the concrete roadbed is being filled in to the top of the rails along the Queensway where no vehicle traffic is expected. Have you any idea why they would not use concrete only to the bottom of the rail (like the RT and Union tunnel). This would make rail change very fast rather than having to grind away the concrete.

    Steve: It makes little sense, but look on the bright side: it will be easier for the ducklings and goslings to get across the tracks each spring.


  10. The sections that have been poured on The Queensway put the track level considerably higher than it was before.

    Trackwork has been completed between Royal York and First Street (offset intersection just west of Dwight).

    Immediately east of Royal York, there is a section that might be a hundred metres or so where they went down to sand and repoured the base, but east of that only the top layer has been chipped off. The ties and clips stay in place, and new rail is attached.

    One thought bugs me about the section east of Royal York. This stretch had some of the noisiest rails, due to the TTC’s lack of grinding equipment, the fast operation of streetcars, and the continuous long curve. It’s also an area of multi-million dollar mansions that back onto the lake. A cynical part wonders if well-heeled residents complained about the noise of the overnight cars (and they are noisy), and the solution was to replace the rails.

    Steve: There are two issues here. First was that this was laid comparatively early in the era of “new” track and that’s why it has a continuous concrete pour rather than the layers. Second, yes, spots where cars run at higher speed do tend to corrugate. There is a similar problem on Broadview toward the north end of Riverdale Park. The TTC has used rail grinding equipment in some cases, but where they expect to replace the rail, probably not. (Broadview is a 2018 project.) There are photos of recent construction in the linked page with the galleries.

    I spoke with Andy Byford and Brad Ross on the “Metro Morning streetcar” earlier today, and there is an engineering solution (they didn’t know the details) for the section south of Grenadier Pond.


  11. I remember the fanfare from the TTC rental of the fancy European rail grinding equipment from a while back. That was a short lived experiment. Only TTC management is capable of disposing of their rail grinding cars when there’s rails to be grinded.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think the TTC now contracts out rail grinding just like all the major railroads do. Keeping equipment around that you don’t often use can get expensive so by contracting out the service to another company you don’t incur the expense of having the equipment sitting in a storage facility.


  13. I have spoken with several of those “long-suffering” riders on Lake Shore Blvd. whose suffering consists of 20 minutes or more of their time saved in each direction of their commute with the demonstrably faster replacement bus. Service. Ditto operators including one who told me he estimated the time saving to be up to 50% at times. I imagine the people on the Queen Street section are already noticing how slow the streetcars are now that they are back east of Sunnyside.

    Steve: I will be doing another comparison of running times later in the year when the routes settle down. One big difference I found the last time I looked is that the bus operators do not care about dawdling to stay on schedule with padded trip times, but instead race as quickly to terminals for as long a siesta as they can manage. Streetcar ops could do this too but would be reamed out for running early. Note how buses pile up at Long Branch, Park Lawn and Roncesvalles. They are early because the schedules have too much running time.

    Another point here is that there are two built in time savings for the buses — they skip the stop at Humber Loop, and they are scheduled much more frequently than the streetcars giving a shorter wait on average.


  14. Miton, people are suffering with the buses, just in different ways.

    It is pretty normal to see three buses laying over just before Long Branch loop (they unload and lay over on Lake Shore east of the Brown’s Line ramp because there’s no room in the loop for all of them).

    This afternoon, I saw three buses laying over for an extended time, and a fourth bus pull in as well. Then all four of them pulled out in a pack, as if it had been agreed amongst the drivers, and stuffed themselves into the loop. The net result was a pack of four buses heading eastbound, after a gap that had resulted in a good half-dozen people waiting impatiently at normally-quiet stops like Thirty First.

    I’ve sent complaints to the TTC about buses taking a long layover and then leaving in a pack. This was the most egregious one yet.


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