Metrolinx quietly slipped a major change in its joint Lakeshore East / Ontario Line corridor plans by way of a web page update with no accompanying announcement or explanation.
Metrolinx plans to raise the existing GO Transit tracks by 0.9m to 1.6m in order to increase clearances under bridges on the corridor. The west and east limits of this work along the corridor have not been announced, and there are illustrations only for the area north of Queen Street.
The previously published layouts assumed tracks would stay at the same elevation as today, with the new Ontario Line to the west and north of the GO corridor at the same level. The new layout shifts everything higher. Note that the top drawing here is a cross-section where the Metrolinx right-of-way is at its widest with open space on either side buffering the mass of the corridor.
There are significant challenges in this scale of work on a busy, live rail corridor. One does not simply bring in loads of fill overnight and jack up the tracks. Bridges are a special concern particularly in any location where all tracks occupy a common structure rather than separate spans for each track that could be individually replaced or raised.
I posed a series of questions about this to Metrolinx, but they will not be responding until Monday, June 21 at the earliest.
- When was the decision made to regrade the rail corridor?
- Why is this being done?
- What is the extent of the work, ie between what locations will the track be raised from its current level?
- By how much will the track be raised?
- What are your staging plans for maintaining GO service during this work?
- What are the effects on the bridges in the affected area?
This change provoked me to review the entire web page to see what else might have been updated. The remainder of this article does a section by section comparison between the June 18 and May 14, 2021, versions of the page. Why May 14? Because that is the most recent copy of the page in the Internet Archive and it shows the “old” version of information.
Each section is set up in a side-by-side gallery allowing readers to swap back and forth between comparable segments of the page.
An important issue about “stealth” updates like this is than an unwary reader might assume that this content was always present when it fact it has been changed, in some cases significantly. Only by actually reviewing the page can someone discover changes, while Metrolinx might say “but we told you” when no notice was given.
The version on the left is from May and shows the original proposal with the OL tracks straddling the GO tracks. The version on the right is from June, but the illustration still shows the original plan.
LSE Joint Corridor
In the May version, left, only the original vertical alignment is shown. This has changed in the June version. Another update is the disappearance in the illustration of the landscaped embankment because a higher corridor requires a wider embankment. However, it is still mentioned in the text.
Lower Don Bridge
The only significant change from May (left) to June (right) is the addition of a start date for the bridge and Don Yard early works in 2022.
The June version (right) drops the reference to across-the-platform transfers at East Harbour Station as the new design precludes them, but now talks of the concourse level that will link all tracks, including the inner Express tracks that previously did not have a platform. The description of the transit-oriented community has been considerably expanded.
The Leslieville section is much revised. In the May version (left side, first two pages) the platforms are shown on the outside of the tracks and there is little additional information. In the June version, the change in platforms is illustrated. Note that the layout with the existing vertical alignment is shown first in the June version, but later without explanation comes the new alignment.
This section is unchanged between May and June.
However, it suffers from a major problem: the request to underground the line within the rail corridor does not match the alignment that the community has proposed. All of the objections about the effects it would have and the constructability of such an alignment are moot because this addresses the wrong alternative.
Note that the vertical alignment shown does not include raising the rail corridor, and so this is out of date. A related issue is the height of noise walls to shield from the now-higher corridor.
The section on park spaces partly duplicates text used in the June version of the previous section.
The description of Gerrard Station had not been updated to reflect the new alignment with both Ontario Line tracks on the north side of the corridor.
The illustration of Gerrard Portal has not been updated to reflect the move of both Ontario Line tracks to the north side of the corridor. The illustration of Vancouver’s Canada Line was deleted in the June version. The description of the space for the portal being “currently paved over for parking” has been removed.
This segment has not been updated to reflect the new alignment of the Ontario Line tracks on the same side of the corridor and therefore the portal is not correctly illustrated. The numbers on the map refers to the notes in the May version that have been deleted in the June version