Various projects on the west end of the 501 Queen route continue, some faster than others, with one real surprise.
Little has changed here since my last visit except that the new contact wire is now attached to span wires in places, and some of the frogs (crossing pieces) have been installed.
The new contact wire still ends just east of Sunnyside Loop. Until reconstruction of the south side of The Queensway including bases for new overhead poles has completed, the loop’s overhead suspension system cannot be installed.
Further west at Glendale (St. Joseph’s Hospital), the concrete work now extends to the west side of the intersection, and the beginnings of a new eastbound stop stop are evident.
Lake Shore & Kipling
The TTC is rebuilding both the intersection at Kipling as well as Kipling Loop. To my amazement, they have not only replaced the rarely used east-to-north curve, but have added a new south-to-west. It will now be possible to short turn a Queen car eastbound at Kipling!
This is the same organization that forgets to add much-needed curves during other reconstruction projects or leaves them out on the basis that the budget won’t handle the expense. There is probably a special award for this sort of thing.
In a classic right hand, left hand, situation, note that the new pantograph compliant overhead includes the east-to-north curve, but does not include the south-to-west.
Just east of the intersection, rails have been removed on the approach for replacement. This is a particularly clear example of how the “new” method of track construction adopted in the 1990s pays off with the need to only strip the top layer of concrete and expose existing attachment points to existing ties.
Louisa to Mimico
The track replacement and repaving of Lake Shore from Louisa to Mimico is complete, and only a few traffic cones prevent full use of the roadway.
We now know what Rick Leary dreams about.
What did the old method of track building look like that wasn’t as convenient?
Steve: Old track used rail on wooden ties that were, sometimes but not always on a concrete base. The TTC even stopped using treated ties for a time and so the ties rotted under the track. The whole structure was poured in concrete and had to be completely demolished to replace the track.
Now the bottom layer is a concrete slab. The middle layer holds the steel ties (whose hooks for the Pandrol clips are just poking out of the concrete in that shot), and the top layer holds the track (which is itself wrapped in a rubber sleeve to reduce vibration and concrete damage.
Most of the western “501 Queen” route between University Avenue and the Long Branch loop will continue with temporary bus replacement for the foreseeable future; the route operates with streetcars between Bathurst Street (Carr loop) and the Neville Park loop. Work on the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles intersection continues.
There will be a delivery of more of the low-floor Flexity Outlook streetcars from Alstom (formerly Bombardier); that’s the same company that made the subway trains for the Caracas Metro, Venezuela. When are these streetcars expected to arrive?
Steve: First off, the official name is Wolseley Loop after the street where cars turn off Bathurst into the loop. Second, streetcar service will be extended to Dufferin in September and to Roncesvalles in October. There is no announced date yet for resumption of service further west. The first of the new cars should arrive in 2023.
So, Long Branch receives its own Toonerville! Is there any chance that the contractor made the south to west [presumed] mistake; or does the TTC pull these off all on their own?
Steve: The TTC specs and purchases the castings on its own. The contractor (Sanscon in this case) is hired to do the road building work. The TTC assembles and installs the track. Any decision on intersection geometry is entirely up the TTC who would have made their choice at least a year ago when the castings were procured.
I like to think that the short-turn curve was installed in preparation for the extension of the Queen streetcar to Square One.
Steve: I think that we should start installing random pieces of track, or even just leaving stockpiles of rail, in various parts of the city and watching to see what wild schemes this brings out from the fan community. 😉
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Back in the before times, the 501 car was often very busy leaving Long Branch loop with students travelling from Mississauga to the Humber Lakeshore campus. Add in local traffic with younger students headed to the new Catholic school there and to Father John Redmond, and the car could be almost full arriving at Kipling.
I doubt it would ever really happen, but if there was a blockage further east in the morning it actually would make sense to loop cars between Long Branch and Kipling just to move the students. (Not that there’s never going to be a blockage further east, just that the TTC is never going to be organized enough to actually do this.)
Steve: The Long Branch service has always been impressive for its local riding. People get on and off at almost every stop, and it is a mistake to judge demand by the number of people crossing the Humber river. Now with Humber College, there is a major destination replacing the factories that once were in the same neighbourhood.
Kipling Loop had that short tail track on northbound Kipling. I’m assuming that will be removed? Do you know what that tail track was for? Also will the loop be redesigned? It seems the current design with the track loop and road loop not being aligned seems a bit strange, especially with the 30 m streetcars that would block at least one of the road entrances.
As far as I know the only potential extensions proposed for the streetcar are to Hurontario/Port Credit as per Mississauga’s Lakeshore study, but that’s just a potential long-term vision. Maybe someone in the track department is being very forward thinking.
Steve: There is no overhead over the tail track and it is too short to hold a Flexity. The switch was still in the street a few days ago, but only because the excavation had not progressed far enough to remove it. The TTC has been removing tail tracks all over the city, and the only operational one, I believe, is at Humber Loop. I cannot see this as being pro-active for an extension considering other curves they should have installed, but did not.
There Are No Short Turns.
Therefore, the sensible conclusion is that the TTC is about to introduce 515 SHORT BRANCH, from Kipling to Long Branch.
Re: Tail track at Humber Loop: I don’t recall there ever being a tail track. There is a passing track along the loop heading back east which I believe was added when they expanded the looping to allow for MU operation, but I don’t recall a tail track. Certainly nothing like the one that used to be at Neville Loop.
Steve: The “passing track” doesn’t connect back into the main line and simply dead ends. This is the result of the most recent reconstruction. The track to which you refer was added for MU operation, but the loop has been reconfigured since then. Here is the Google Earth view.
St. Joseph’s Health Care is located on The Queensway between Glendale and Sunnyside. While the construction interferes with access for emergency vehicles, with the current problems with healthcare in Ontario, it adds little time (seconds) compared to the current waiting time (several hours, if not days) at the hospital’s emergency.
Steve: For the record, there is provision for access by emergency vehicles across the construction site. The larger problem would be with congestion and lane restrictions.
Any update on when the construction work on Queen related to the Ontario Line will begin? Like tunnelling and station construction. How complex will be the construction of the new stations under the existing Queen and Osgoode stations? The Scarborough Subway and the Eglinton Crosstown West tunnel boring machines were made by Herrenknecht in Germany, do you know where the tunnel boring machines for the Ontario Line will he made and by which company? Any updates on the Yonge Subway Extension and the Yonge station expansion?
Steve: Early works (utility relocations) will begin soon for the Ontario Line, at least the downtown portion. The contracts for the tunnels, stations and systems are at the stage of bid evaluations, but have not yet been awarded. The selection of a TBM manufacturer will be up to the successful bidder.
I have already reported in detail on Ontario Line station design in previous articles. Both Queen and Osgoode are complex, and design for the latter is still under discussion in an attempt to avoid damage to the grounds of Osgoode Hall.
The Yonge extension is further behind in the design and contracting process.
Bloor Yonge Expansion is in the early stages with some property expropriation underway and utility relocations planned to begin soon. No details yet on project staging, road closures, etc.
Walter Lis brought up the issue of streetcar track construction blocking emergency vehicles from accessing hospitals. Some years back, we were delayed by over 30 minutes trying to get to a child because the intersection of Queen St West and Bathurst St was closed for weeks for streetcar track construction. The problem was not access to a hospital being blocked, the problem was getting to the child’s residence. Anyway, the child died just moments before arriving at the hospital and would have survived if the streetcar track construction had not blocked off an entire intersection which closure had lasted for many weeks. I work as a paramedic here in Toronto. Prior to coming to Toronto, I worked as a paramedic in New York City and over there, we never heard of entire intersections being closed for months for streetcar track construction. Such closures are unacceptable and cost innocent lives.
Steve: Streetcar track is only one form of road work that causes closures and congestion. I agree that there are projects that have gone on far too long (King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles, for example) through a combination of poor co-ordination or of trying to achieve too much in one project. Subway construction has also tied parts of the city in knots as has some water main and sewer replacement work. I am not trying to make special excuses for track replacement, but to point out that it is not the only type of work that causes these problems.
Toronto is a dense city with bad traffic any day of the week. It seems a stretch to suggest that any one construction zone is particularly to blame. On Queen West, the subject of this article, the delays at KQQR were caused by water and hydro, not track reconstruction. Richmond St West between York and Bathurst was a mess for most of 2019 due to water reconstruction – no streetcar tracks there. Upcoming years-long closure of Queen at Yonge for subway construction, right near St. Mike’s and an ambulance station, will create delays too. It’s probably worthwhile to account for and to plan around construction, no matter the cause.
Incidentally, Toronto emergency services contribute to snarled road by sending out huge fire trucks to EMS calls and to false fire alarms in condos. If you live between a fire station and a high-rise cluster, you will see full-size fire trucks several times a day, and serious fires maybe once a month. I don’t suggest that we ignore condo fire alarms, but a first response on a motorcycle or smaller, nimbler vehicle to assess the situation is worth thinking about.
It might also be worth looking into EMS station locations. There are some pretty glaring gaps in dense areas of the city right now – from Queen and Bathurst, the nearest stations are at Bathurst and Bloor, at Harbourfront, past Dufferin, or at Yonge. I recall there used to be a station on Richmond St W near Bellwoods Park, which might have responded to the call in Queen and Bathurst area, but it appears to have since closed?
A delay over 30 minutes is quite a lot. Around Queen and Bathurst, a 10 minute walk gets one to Dundas, or to Spadina, or to Niagara, or to Front. I realize that walking isn’t a great answer when you need to transport someone in a medical emergency, but again, a faster response on a motorcycle would allow to recognize the medical situation and assess traffic to determine best access. Stretchers are used because no ambulance can roll up to the room door. At some point, wheeling a patient on a stretcher for a couple of minutes becomes a better answer than an ambulance delayed in traffic for 30 minutes.
I took a walk around Kipling and Lake Shore this morning.
The intersection indeed has all the curves possible for it, E to N, W to N, S to E, and S to W. The overhead for the new S to W curve appeared to be in place.
As would be predictable, with the track in the loop being redone, the tail track up Kipling has been obliterated.
A couple of questions:
The new wiring still had the little skate at the frog. That’s only to allow both pole and pan operation, as far as I know. Why on earth are they installing overhead suitable for poles? There should be zero issue making all of Lake Shore pan-only. And there’s been lots of time to do so.
The E to N and S to E/W switches had a metal cover running between the rails. Does that mean that they are automated/electrified? There were no SR or NA signs on the overhead that I could see, but they may not have gotten to that point yet.
Steve: Officially, Long Branch is still pole territory, and so the overhead is set up with skates on the frogs. I suspect that this was planned some time ago. The metal box between the rails is for a switch machine, and it appears to be standard to install these everywhere with new track whether the switch is electrified or not to simplify conversion, if desired.