This article continues a series reviewing the open house sessions conducted online by Metrolinx for the Ontario Line in February and March 2022.
- Ontario Line Environmental Assessment Open Houses: Part I – General Thoughts
- Ontario Line Environmental Assessment Open Houses: Part II – North Section
The material here is condensed from recordings of the two meetings about the section from Gerrard to Exhibition Station. The questions and answers have been grouped to bring related topics together, mainly on a geographic basis. This is not an exhaustive Q&A as the topics depend on the interests of those participating.
Statements are not attributed to any specific person (if you really want to know who said what, listen to the recordings), but if anyone feels I have misrepresented their position, please let me know through the comments.
The sections prefaced with “Comment:” are my remarks.
Q: What is the expected noise level for trains travelling downhill and uphill at portal? Would there be other train noises such as horns?
A: There will be horns for manual operations, but this is not a normal case. Metrolinx is reviewing the topography for special areas like this, and model the effects. Information is in the Noise & Vibration report. The immersive sound demo is about to be updated, and it does include a portal – Minton. Metrolinx noted that diesels on the GO line are louder when accelerating and climbing up hill, but this does not happen with electric trains.
Comment: The geometry of the portal at Minton is completely different from the one at Gerrard and is not representative. At Minton, the portal faces out across the Don Valley and trains outside the portal run on an open bridge. At Gerrard (and at other portals at the Distillery District and at Exhibition), the portal is in a cut, and the concrete structure of the ramp to the surface will direct sound upward. At the Distillery this will be compounded by placement of special trackwork for a crossover within the portal ramp as shown on the base drawings.
Q: What restrictions are there for track access?
A: The corridor will be fenced, and there will be motion detectors within it. Trains will also have detection systems.
Q: The EA claims that “idling will not be allowed” by construction trucks. How will you enforce this? Idling will happen at TBM launch sites and staging areas. This will be a big problem at Gerrard Square.
A: Metrolinx has anti-idling language in the contract and they will enforce this. Providing accommodation for workers such as lunchrooms is the responsibility of the project company.
Q: How will you minimize dust/dirt/noise during construction?
A: Metrolinx has a variety of tools to minimize noise (see Appendix K), and there will site specific ways to do this. Dust supressants will be used as needed. Material stockpiles will be covered. Weather will be monitored for conditions that could blow dirt around. There will also be air quality monitoring.
There will be a 24 hour hotline, and the Construction Liaison Committees for ongoing discussion of issues.
Q: How long will construction last?
A: Early works on the project will take about two years and peak construction will occur in 2024-26. Queen Station is a large project that will run from 2023-27. The timing depends on the location.
One part of the early work is the construction of retaining and noise walls along the corridor. This will reduce some noise transmission from work within the corridor.
Q: Can you confirm the location of any permanent structures eg substations, shafts etc? If the public wants to know where the vents will be, is there someplace they can find this especially for King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina stations?
A: The drawings show Emergency Service Buildings and major structures at stations. Ventillation for the piston effect of trains is to be incorporated in buildings as much as possible, and there are few sidewalk grates. Where vents are needed, there will be a small stack so that people don’t walk on grates. The one exception is at Queen where there are no new buildings in which vents could be built.
Comment: Metrolinx suggested that people could refer to the drawings to see where these structures would be. However, detailed station drawings have not yet been published.
Q: Will there be a third set of OL tracks to allow for maintenance, and if not, why not?
A: Conventionally we do not build triple track. Modern track maintenance is needed much less, and can be done with evening shutdowns. We don’t want to stop operations, but building a third track is unwarranted due to cost and property requirements. There might be a third track at turanounds, but with automatic train operation (ATO) we don’t need it.
Comment: Another important part of ATO and modern signalling is the ability to run single track operations when service is less frequent provided that (a) there are crossovers close enough along the line that the length of single track running is short and (b) power control systems allow for selected power cuts in one direction where work is taking place.
Q: In today’s heated housing market, “fair market value” for expropriation based on historic sales will probably not reflect current pricing. How will you deal with this?
A: FMV will be based on values at the time of sale.
Q: If I want to retain my own appraiser, will Metrolinx reimburse me and what is a reasonable cost?
A: Costs vary, but Metrolinx will reimburse them.
Q: If a house is acquired, how much time do people have to vacate? What if they cannot find an alternative housing situation?
A: Metrolinx will reach out as soon as possible [when the need for property is identified]. The timing varies from now through 2024 depending on when property is required. They want to listen to what owners’ needs are such as relocation.
Comment: Property matters are almost always dealt with privately, and the only way people will find out how their neighbours’ concerns are handled will be to compare notes. This is not the sort of thing where Metrolinx will produce an overview showing what they do. The situation could be complicated if there are additional property acquisitions by Infrastructure Ontario as part of a development land assembly, and residents might be dealing with two separate agencies in the same neighbourhood.
Q: The drawing in the presentation deck appears to be changed. In the early versions, the OL tracks flared out east from First Avenue, but now there is no flare out.
Comment: I believe this is a drafting error by Metrolinx in their presentation deck where the two tracks are shown as if they are along the north side of the structure rather than straddling a centre platform. This is an example of the pitfalls of using simplified drawings rather than accurate engineering plans. Metrolinx appears to prefer the simpler drawings, but these do not always accurately represent the project.
Q: How much soil will be removed from the tunnel boring launch site? How many truckloads per day and for how long? What route will the trucks take and where does the dirt go?
A: It will take about two years to build the launch site. The North Civils contractor is not selected yet and they will determine the timing. Metrolinx has some preliminary routes for truck access. Material will be stockpiled on site with 2-3 days’ capacity so that the actual trucking can occur on the day shift. Metrolinx has “very strict” noise controls.
Movements will be restricted to major routes. The exact routes and dump locations will depend on the contractor, when picked. Spoil will be handled as per recently updated Ministry of Environment rules.
Comment: Detailed truck route plans have been produced as part of the report to City Council on downtown construction even though the contractor for this work has not been selected. This is one of several cases where the amount of detailed planning, and hence information about, the portion of the line east of the Don River is much less advanced than for the downtown segment.
Q: After reading about 8,000 pages of Ontario Line Reports, it is clear that the OL belongs underground. This kind of traffic cannot be mitigated. On the construction noise maps, many locations are highlighted as areas for mitigation. Selection of properties for mitigation appears uneven. What is Wardell not included but Queen/Degrassi is? What does “mitigation” mean for affected homes?
A: Metrolinx has included a conservative assumption about construction equipment and the “zone of influence” (ZOI) around work sites. Once contractors are on board, they will be updating the preliminary assessment, and there will be a preconstruction survey. There will be continuous monitoring with alert levels and action levels to flag problems, and the effects will be kept below regulatory levels. Metrolinx is “very aware” of heritage properties and sensitivity. There will be a post construction survey, and they would repair any problem. The EA property list is preliminary, but it will be updated.
Comment: The ZOIs are clustered around major construction sites such as stations and bridges and reflect the location where the heaviest works, hence noise and vibration, will be generated. Construction between these points should not take as long and will probably generate less N&V, at least according to the Metrolinx projections.
Q: Early works are planned for September 2022. What will happen in the parks in the joint corridor? Will they remain open? How will you address safety?
A: Metrolinx’ long term plans are to increase park space by about 2,600 square metres. Staging and access will be done from major streets. There will be hoardings around construction areas so that parks can stay open during construction. New tracks are within the existing Metrolinx corridor with the exception of Queen/Degrassi where the new station will be cantilevered over the street. The retaining walls, drainage and noise walls will be installed from within the corridor, and once they are in place, work will be behind them.
Noise in the Joint Corridor
Q: Electrified trains will be abouit 10dB quieter. Today there are 150 trains/day and there are periods where there is no train, hence no noise. In the future there will b 1,500 trains/day. Although they are quieter, there will be many more and there could be a constant hum.
A: Metrolinx will look at all future trains, but there are a few factors at play. OL trains will be considerably quieter than GO trains, and GO will electrify a majority of trips. There will be noise barriers and a future reduction of up to 10dB.
Comment: The qualification of “up to” a 10dB difference is important because 10dB is often cited as if it were typical, a value that could be achieved throughout the corridor, when it is actually a maximum and the projected improvement varies by location. Also, although GO will electrify a majority of trips, the number of diesel trips will remain about the same as today because there will be more trips overall, and not all will be electric.
Moderator: The point of the question is the difference between an occasional loud diesel train as against a constant presence of noise from many more trains. With the increased train traffic plus GO electrification plus noise, the average noise will be quieter than today because noise and vibration from current rail operations will be dampened.
When will electrification occur? GO traffic could be diesel for up to 15 years according to the questioner? What is the period when diesel trains will still be there? Does Metrolinx have studies that handle this transition?
A: Electrification is required for Metrolinx to be able to operate frequent service. OL delivery is end of the 2020s. Electrification will run alongside with this. There is always going to be a mixed fleet. That is the plan for GO and Metrolinx has modelled that along with the quiet OL. Electrfication is coming and will be delivered over the next decade and the ten years beyond.
Comment: That statement feeds into the 15 year issue and questions about the timing of electrification for each. Metrolinx really fudged the answer here.
Q: What efforts will be made to ensure trains do not operate with flat wheels?
A: The OL with automated train control [GOA4] should not have flats caused by hard braking. If this does occur, there is flat detection equipment on board so trains can be pulled from service.
Comment: I cannot help remembering debates about train noise during the early days of the Scarborough RT project. The Ministry of Transportation engineers did not understand that steel wheels bounce, and this builds up corrugations on track. Flat wheels are not the only source of noise, but Metrolinx is fixated on this one component of the problem.
Q: How much higher will sound barriers be above the corridor? What will be the loss of sunlight compared to former railway and trees?
A: Metrolinx is having “a very active discussion” with the local community. Various materials have been proposed, and they have different properties for noise isolation. This work will continue over the next three months, and the Joint Corridor works will be tendered in April.
Moderator: Is a soundwall noise comparison available?
A: Yes, it’s on the website from previous meetings.
Moderator: Please include the URL for this when you answer the questions online.
Comment: At this point I sensed frustration because Metrolinx would often say the information is in the report or on a web page. Anyone unfamiliar with the material would take forever just to track down a reference that project staff could have been provided with a pointer to a document and page number.
East Harbour Station
Q: For the Don River Crossing, is there a pedestrian or bike bridge/pathway here? How is the bridge going to affect the ecosystem?
A: The bridge is a tied arch somewhat like the Humber River bridge. It spans the entire waterway and so will have a low ecological impact with abutments on land. There is a desire to get a multi-use path across the river as part of the overall program of the developer and East Harbour team.
Comment: That sounds like a roundabout way of saying that the pedestrian/bike path is not in scope for the transit project.
Q: For the tunnel south and east from Corktown, will Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) be used, and how long will it take to dig this? Will there be permanent noise and vibration once the line is running?
A: The tunnelling means and method are up to the contractors. Either a TBM or Sequential Excavation (mining) will be used. The tunnel is mostly in rock except for the portal in the Don Yard where the line comes out of the rock. The tunnel is 10-12m below the surface when they reach the portal mouth. Between the design of the OL and the benefits of automatic train control, the noise will be “imperceptible”. A variety of mitigation measures included in design thanks to “modern technology”.
Comment: Metrolinx appears not to have picked up on the presence of special trackwork (switches, frogs) for a double crossover that is planned within the portal and ramp structure that could be an extra source of noise here.
Q: Will there be a community monitor on the Parliament site to ensure safety/liveability?
A: There will be a construction liaison committee with local residents. Metrolinx will tell them what they are doing and when, and residents can give us feedback. There will be a 24 hour hotline in case something goes awry.
Moss Park Station
Q: What will Metrolinx do about pest control needed to deal with migration of pests from buildings that will be demolished?
A: Pest control comes with demolition. Metrolinx will do an environmental scan for pests and hazardous materials (e.g. asbestos). At Moss Park, the station is an open cut in a park, and so they do not anticipate a pest control problem. Metrolinx is working closely with City in this area, and the City has some projects for the area too.
Q: There is no mention of Moss Park River in Appendix B.5 / Final Report. Is this an oversight? Is there any heritage related to this?
A: Metrolinx’ understanding is that there was an historic watercourse, but no longer, and the stormwaters now pass through to the Don. Metrolinx relies on information from the Conservation Authority and Ministry Of Environment.
Comment: For the benefit of readers, Moss Park Creek branched off of Taddle Creek roughly where the station will be located.
Q: With Queen Street being closed, have the plans for “YongeTO” changes been taken into account for neighbourhood access especially by emergency vehicles?
A: The closure will be a “very choreographed exercise”. Metrolinx has taken into account YongeTO, hospital access, and maintenance of north-south arteries. The plan has been approved by Council. Metrolinx is working to ensure streets still function.
The construction technique at Queen will be Sequential Excavation as this is the only station to be accessed from the street. There will be two shafts, one on either side of the existing Line 1 down to bedrock. The project will mine through rick about 30m underground to create a cavern.
The excavation is done in a manner to maintain stability of the rock. Spoil will be lifted out from the two access shafts with minimal disruption to the surroundings.
The Line 1 structure sits on top of bedrock, and it will be about 8m down from the bottom of the TTC box to the new station cavern. The “Lower Queen” underpass will be used as part of the new circulation/access between the lines.
Q: What about noise during construction?
A: The TBMs will be very deep under Queen, and noise is minimal at that depth. They will advance 10-15m/day and so their proximity to any one location is just over a day.
Q: Has Metrolinx considered the proposal for “University Park”?
A: Metrolinx has discussed issues with the City including the street media and lane changes, but right now the park proposal does not have official status or approval. Metrolinx needs a staging area. They will use the same technique of coming in from corners at Queen/Simcoe and Osgoode Hall as at other stations such as Queen/Spadina.
Their designers have “very elegant solutions” to maintain historic fence line with minimal impact of a new glass structure. Metrolinx is working closely with tenants and owners of Osgoode Hall (the Law Society of Ontario own part of the property, and the province owns the rest) on plans to recreate the site after they leave.
Q: Why is the entrance not through a revised University Avenue or through redevelopment on the SW corner (250 University)?
A: Metrolinx reviewed all of the work done for the Relief Line proposal at this station and possibilities for all corners. The median was not acceptable because of access issues and was not considered a reasonable option. 250 University has a difficult foundation, something the TTC found in their own work on the RL design. An entrance on the NW corner would significantly affect Campbell House, and there is limited space on the SE corner at the Opera House. This is how they wound up at Queen/Simcoe and at Osgoode Hall.
Metrolinx will protect the fence and “nestle” into the corner.
Queen/Spadina & King/Bathurst Stations
Q: Re development along Queen Street: Properties will be demolished at stations and this will have vibration impacts nearby. Also, there will be redevelopment generally from University to Bathurst. What is the scope and timing?
A: Queen is an active street with a heritage nature. Redevelopment will be post OL construction, and the project-related work is under Infrastructure Ontario, not Metrolinx.
Comment: The larger problem of intensification around stations will affect heritage streets.
Q: What is the timing of construction at these stations?
A: Utility relocates in 2022 summer/fall especially near Queen/Yonge/York. Full scale construction starts late 2023 lasting through 2027. In 2028-29 all work is underground with some materials deliveries at the surface.
Q: The project is being presented as having minimal impacts, but Eglinton shows how things can go wrong. How will you avoid business disruption?
A: Station construction is designed to avoid large open cut excavations that would affect surface transit, businesses and sidewalks. Metrolinx will dig straight down from entrances and mine outward. These sites are within properties acquired for station entrances. Any needed lane closures will be coordinated with any other nearby work.
Eglinton had a lot of decking and temporary structures. Metrolinx is not doing this for the OL except at Queen/Yonge. At station sites, the curb lane will be closed as there would be at a condo site. Major construction is in bedrock 20-30m down below utilities. Eglinton was different because it was LRT running partly on the surface stuff.
Q: Which properties have you already acquired?
Metrolinx has not acquired properties yet, but claims that this information is publicly available.
Q: What is the plan for land Metrolinx has acquired north of Fort York?
A: This property is in the rail corridor and will be used for an emergency exit from the tunnel. Metrolinx has spent a lot of time working with Fort York and the local community to avoid conflicts. The OL construction will be west of Strachan remote from Fort York.
Q: The proposed development at Exhibition Station will have an impact on privacy and sunlight for residents of 5 Hanna Ave, the Liberty Market Lofts which have 17 foot windows. There will be an impact from the siting and spacing of new condo towers.
A: Metrolinx is only building the subway network. The Transit Oriented Community (TOC) program is run by Infrastructure Ontario who should be consulted on this issue.