GTHA Update: Ontario Line, Kitchener-Waterloo, Yonge North, Eglinton CrosstownWritten by John Thompson, Canadian Contributing Editor, Railway Age
The latest information from the GTHA (Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area) shows progress on the Ontario Line and TTC Yonge North extension, but troubles for the Kitchener-Waterloo extension and Eglinton Crosstown LRTs
The Ontario Government has issued RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for two sections of the Ontario Line, the rail rapid transit line presently in the early stages of construction in Toronto.
The contract for the Pape Avenue Tunnel and related stations involves 1.9 miles (3 km) of twin tunnel and two stations, one at Cosburn Avenue, the other at Danforth Avenue, interfacing with the existing Pape station on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Bloor-Danforth Subway. Two new portals where the line transitions from tunnel to surface operations are also included.
The elevated guideway contract embraces a 1.9-mile (3 km) concrete elevated section, and five surface stations. Two of these will be within the existing GO Transit (ex-CN) rail corridor—Riverside-Leslieville and Gerrard Avenue—plus three along the northern section—Thorncliffe Park, Flemington Park, and Science Centre. The latter, however, will need to be renamed if a proposal to demolish the nearby Science Centre goes through. This terminal will, in any event, provide a passenger interface with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which has an underground station at this point.
Ontario Line construction is presently in progress at Exhibition Station (also the location of a GO Transit station and TTC streetcar loop). In addition, workers are busy at the Corktown and Moss Park stations, and along the joint rail corridor east of the Don River.
The Ontario Line will be 9.7 miles (15.6km) long. The rolling stock has not yet been ordered, but it will likely be similar to the REM trains in Montreal, with overhead power collection, or the Vancouver Skytrain vehicles. The Ontario Line will be operated and maintained by a private contractor, not TTC. It is being constructed to railway standard gauge, not the TTC’s slightly wider “Toronto gauge.”
The proposed Cambridge extension of the Kitchener-Waterloo LRT has been beset by major cost overruns. A recent projection involving all aspects—planning, design, land purchase, construction and LRV purchase—has been established as C$4.5 billion. This is about five times the cost of the initial Kitchener-Waterloo line, opened four years ago. In 2021, the anticipated cost of the Cambridge section was just C$1.52 billion, when the province authorized the preparation of a business plan. The project would be dependent upon financing from the provincial and possibly the federal government.
Cambridge is a medium sized city adjacent to Kitchener. It is an amalgamation of the former municipalities of Galt, Hespeler and Preston. Until April 1955, they were linked to Kitchener by the electric passenger trains of the Grand River Railway, a Canadian Pacific (CP) subsidiary.
Part of the reason for the high cost is the need to construct six bridges and an elevated section. Several railway lines need to be crossed over, as well as a small stream. The LRT would terminate in downtown Galt, near a local and intercity bus terminal. The earliest date for the start of construction is 2030, by which time the area’s population may have grown significantly. However, due to the excessive cost estimates, some local politicians are expressing doubt that it will be financially feasible to ever build the line. Time will tell.
The Ontario government announced April 27 that the search for teams interested in building the TTC Line 1 Yonge North Subway Extension tunnels has begun with the release of an RFQ (request for qualifications).
“This important milestone brings the project one step closer to getting shovels in the ground on major construction,” Metrolinx said. “The package of work includes designing the tunnels, supplying the tunnel boring machines and building the launch and extraction shafts that will be used to lower the tunnel boring machines into the ground and bring them to the surface. The RFQ also includes design and construction of the walls that will support the underground stations and emergency exit buildings and relocating existing utilities along the route.
“Through detailed plans and careful construction, the successful tunnelling team will dig out the tunnel for the subway extension that will bring TTC Line 1 service to Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill. This follows news of important progress on the approximately 5-mile (8 km) extension. Work has started at Finch Station on early upgrades to accommodate future subway service.
“Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will review the submissions made through the advance tunneling RFQ and will create a shortlist of qualified teams that will be invited to bid on the tunnelling contract through an RFP (request for proposals).”
Construction crews are redoing the platform on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT center-island Sloane Station, located along Eglinton Avenue East, near Sloane Avenue and Bermondsey Road. According to Metrolinx, the problem is an “uneven layer of concrete,” identified during the quality control and inspection process. Repair requires placement of new concrete, after the old platform is ripped out using an excavator and jackhammer. This will take about a month, without “changes to the current traffic or pedestrian routes,” according the agency.
“Fixing deficiencies is a normal part of any major infrastructure project and rigorous inspections and quality checks are being undertaken … to ensure safety and reliability,” Metrolinx told the Toronto Star. “There are no costs to the taxpayer as this work is part of the existing project contract requirements.” The agency added that uneven concrete hasn’t been identified at any other Crosstown stations.