Complaining about transit and its lack of progress is a recreational sport in Toronto and the rest of the GTHA, but there is a long list of project completions scheduled for the next 12 months across the area. 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years for transit projects in the new millennium, with plenty of planning, construction, and new transportation openings to keep an eye on.
The largest project set to finish up construction this year is the Georgetown South rail corridor upgrade. A $1.2 billion dollar project, the project is already wrapping up construction with final tracks being laid and finishing touches being added to the new underpass and overpass structures. The Georgetown south corridor plays a central part of the GO rail network, and will be key for GO's coming increase to 15-minute electrified service. The corridor serves three GO rail lines, with the Barrie, Milton, and Kitchener lines using the corridor for at least a portion of their respective routes. With the completion of the upgrade, Kitchener's train service is expected to be expanded significantly.
The Union-Pearson Express, which will also use the newly upgraded Georgetown South corridor, is set to open in the spring. Running every 15 minutes, it will connect Canada's two busiest passenger terminals in a quick, 25-minute trip. The service has come under criticism for its $19 fare with a PRESTO card and a $27.50 fare without, but regardless will likely prove to be a key link in Canada's inter-regional transportation network.
Union Station's renovation and expansion is set to see several significant milestones in the coming year, as the station's reconstruction begins to approach its completion in 2016. The new York concourse is set to open early this year, at which point the existing Bay street concourse will close for its reconstruction. This will be the largest change to Union Station in over 30 years, and GO transit passengers should expect a significantly improved experience in the station. The new concourse will include more stairs to platforms, an expanded retail space, and a new PATH connection to the northwest of the station.
Although the new platform opened in August of 2014, the TTC's Union Station second platform is set to wrap up construction by the Pan Am Games. Work still to be done includes the complete reconstruction of the original 1954 platform to match the aesthetics and accessibility of the new platform, the installation of a large glass art wall between the two platforms, and the completion of exterior streetscaping.
The TTC is also set to increase bus service over the course of the year, as part of John Tory's first budget. 12 additional Night Bus routes, 4 new express bus routes, reduced crowding, and minimum 10 minute service on many of the busiest lines are all set to take effect by the end of the year. It is all part of a $95 million package to improve TTC service, partially funded through property taxes and partially through raised fares.
Jumping all the way up to Newmarket, York Region Transit and Metrolinx are set to finish construction on the 2.7km long Davis Drive VIVA Rapidway in December. The project will be the third major opening of York Region's new VIVA Rapidway bus lanes, and is set to bring improved transit access to northern York Region. Running from just east of the Southlake Regional Health Centre at Roxborough road to Yonge street, the project is set to create a new main street for the northern GTA community of 80,000.
On the opposite side of the GTHA is Hamilton's new James North GO station, set to finish its first phase in time for the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games this summer. The first phase will include 2 new platforms, a new station building, a parking garage for 460 cars, and a kiss and ride spot. The second phase which is set to open in 2017 will include improved access to the station through additional staircases to the platforms.
Burlington is also set to receive a better GO station experience, when the long delayed Burlington GO upgrade is completed. The station features a large new station building and improved bus loop on the south side of the tracks, where currently only a small, aged station building exists. The $13.8 million upgrade was originally scheduled to be completed in June of 2014, but poor contractor performance delayed the project almost an entire year. The new opening date is now scheduled for the spring.
Moving over to the Island Airport, Ports Toronto is putting on the finishing touches to its island airport tunnel. Set to open in early 2015, the project will eliminate the need to take one of the worlds shortest ferry rides to the airport (although the ferry will still run). The $82.5 million project will use sets of escalators and moving sidewalks to get people to the airport in an efficient matter and eliminate the surges of people at the taxi stand and airport when a ferry arrives.
Render of the island tunnel, image courtesy of Ports Toronto
The year is also set to see a large amount of progress on the construction of ongoing transit projects.
One of the most prominent transportation projects in the GTA, the Spadina Subway Extension, is set to make significant progress as it prepares for its opening in late 2016. The $2.6 billion dollar project will build 6 new stations on an 8.6km line running northwest from Downsview station, connecting Vaughan and York University to the subway network. While construction is progressing as scheduled at 3 of the 6 stations, issues with York University, Pioneer Village, and Highway 407 stations are threatening a delay in opening. Pioneer Village station's contractor in particular is posing issues for the TTC in terms of performance, and could possibly set the entire project back. Nonetheless, the project is set to see significant progress in 2015. Tunneling for the project is now complete, with all station structures well under construction. By the end of the year the stations' above ground structures will be far more noticeable than today. Interior fit out and track work is set to make significant progress in 2015 as well.
The largest transportation project in the province, the $5.3 billion Crosstown LRT, is also set to make progress in 2015. Tunneling for the first of 3 major tunnel sections from Black Creek Drive to Allen Road is now complete. In 2015 the western TBMs are expected to be lifted over the existing Spadina subway line, and then lowered back into the ground to continue their drive towards Yonge Street. The eastern TBMs will similarly launch and begin their drive westward to meet the others at Yonge. Metrolinx is also set to select its preferred bidder for the construction and maintenance of the stations and track work by summer, which will allow construction to begin on those facets of the project. When all is said and done, the project will bring 19km of LRT to Eglinton Avenue from Kennedy Station to Weston Road, 11km of which will be in a grade separated underground tunnel.
Video of tunnel boring machines completing the first tunnel drive of the project, image courtesy of Metrolinx
Union Station is expected to make significant progress on the portions of the project not set to reach completion this year. Track work around the station, long delayed by substandard contractors, is set to finally make progress after a new contractor was brought in last year. When complete, the track work will replace old switches, some dating back to the original opening of the station, and significantly speed up the often slow crawl to the trains into Union Station. Once the York Concourse opens early this year, the Bay Street concourse will also begin reconstruction, starting with the demolition of the existing concourse. The new glass atrium at track level is expected to reach completion in the spring, and significant progress is set to be made on the historic trainshed for its restoration set to finish up in 2016.
Metrolinx is also expected to make major progress on its Viva Rapidways in York region. Construction on the Highway 7 rapidway in Vaughan will progress significantly this year, on its way to a partial opening in 2016. The remainder of the rapidway projects, on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill and Newmarket as well as the remainder of the Highway 7 rapidway in Vaughan, are also set to begin construction this year and are due for completion in 2016. The $1.4 billion dollar project to construct 41km of BRT lines in the region is expected to wrap up in 2018 when those projects finish up.
The Mississauga Transitway is similarly expected to make progress in 2015 towards a 2016 completion date. The first phase opened in November of 2014, but construction on the second phase is still progressing towards completion. The final phase will extend the transitway from its current terminus at Dixie Road to Renforth Drive where buses will have fast access to the airport, 427, and 401 to reach other areas of the city.
GO Transit also has significant continuing projects underway across the GTHA. It is constructing 2 new layover yards for trains in Hamilton and Kitchener, which will allow GO to expand train service to those two cities. Both are set to open in 2016, and the Shirley road layover building in Kitchener will include a 30-bus storage facility for GO Transit's growing bus service to the area.
GO is also working on projects to expand its bus service around the region, with the construction of a new bus storage facility in Waterdown, a new GO terminal at Square One, and park and ride facilities along the recently opened 404 extension to serve a new GO bus line to Keswick.
The RER program to increase GO service across the network is also progressing with some early projects moving forward. The East Rail Maintenance facility in Whitby is already well under construction and set for completion in 2017. The project will provide GO Transit storage for 22 trains, as well as another facility for train maintenance. GO is also expected to begin construction on a second track on the Barrie Line between York University station and Rutherford station this year, to improve GO services on the line. The Richmond Hill line is also seeing improvements, including an extension to Stouffville Road with the new Gormely station.
The TTC is expected to make progress on the delivery of its new streetcars and its implementation of the Presto farecard. Bombardier, the supplier for the streetcars, has been facing serious supply and labour issues, and has fallen seriously behind on the delivery schedule. The TTC has received only 3 production vehicles, far below the original production schedule. Bombardier says that it will deliver 27 new vehicles this year, but many question the claim. Presto is also beginning its full rollout on the TTC, and expects that it will have the farecard readers installed at 12 more subway stations and on all streetcars, both old and new, by the end of the year. Full rollout to all subway stations and in all buses is scheduled for the end of 2016.
Projects in Planning
Planning of projects in the GTA is also set to continue in 2015, with several important planning studies set to progress through the year.
Metrolinx is going to ramp up its GO RER program over the year, with different facets set to progress. The service plan and business case analysis, detailing service levels and financial feasibility of the project, is due out in the second quarter of 2015. Metrolinx is also set to begin the environmental assessment process for several major facets for the project, including dozens of grade separations, rail to rail crossing eliminations, and electrification.
The City of Toronto, working closely with Metrolinx, will also progress on its SmartTrack project. Expected to integrate closely with GO's RER plans—or in fact be entirely subsumed by them—the project will look at the feasibility of the proposal, specifically the Eglinton branch of the line which is the only section that does not run on an existing rail corridor.
The Yonge network relief study will also tie into the SmartTrack and RER study work, looking at the impacts the new transit services will have on the demand for the Yonge subway, and if anything additional can to be done to match service to capacity requirements. This includes the possibility of constructing the Relief Line, most commonly referred to as the DRL, which is also undergoing an initial design process by the City of Toronto.
The Scarborough subway is set to make progress in the design process this year, with the first public consultations occurring on January 31st and February 2nd. The $3.2 billion dollar, 7.6km line is set to improve connections into scarborough, and is possibly the most controversial transit project of the last decade. The work currently underway will look at the best route for the subway, how many stations should be constructed, and will then move into detailed design before construction begins in 2018 for an ultimate completion of the project in 2023.
The Finch and Sheppard LRTs will both similarly progress this year. Metrolinx is currently performing an environmental assessment on the train storage and maintenance facility for the Finch LRT, and is set to issue the RFP for Finch and the RFQ for Sheppard before the end of the year. Construction will shortly follow beginning in 2016 and 2017.
Metrolinx is finishing up design for the Kipling Mobility hub, a large new bus terminal set to be constructed at Kipling station by 2018. the terminal will bring multiple bus services to one spot, to ease transit connections currently made at Islington station, and to provide a larger, more modern space for buses to drop off passengers.
Possibly the most major planning related issue for transportation to expect this year is the announcement of Metrolinx's priority projects for the Province's Move Ontario Forward fund. The Province dedicated $15 billion dollars to transit projects in the GTA over 10 years in 2014, and Metrolinx is set to announce which projects will receive that funding soon. A large amount of the money is expected to go towards the GO RER program, but other large projects in the GTA such as the Hurontario LRT, Hamilton LRT, Yonge Subway extension, and the Relief Line are possible candidates for funding.
The Province is also moving forward with several large road expansion projects over the following following years.
Construction is already underway for for several large road projects, and more projects are on their way. The Province is focusing on expanding the HOV network around the GTHA, with the addition of HOV lanes on Highway 410 from the 401 to Queen Street, and HOV lanes on the 427 from Highway 409 to Highway 407. The 401 widening from Hurontario to the Credit River, scheduled to begin construction in the coming year, will introduce HOV lanes on the 401 for the first time from the Credit River to the Highway 403 and Highway 410 interchange, with a widening from 6 lanes to 12. The Ministry of Transportation is also planning to extend the HOV lanes on Highway 404 from their current terminus at Highway 7 to Stouffville Road later in the decade.
The Ministry of Transportation is also moving forward on other highway expansions around the GTHA, with the first phase of the 407 Toll Road extension into Oshawa set to open in December. The first phase includes an extension of the highway to Harmony Road in Oshawa, and a connecting highway between Ajax and Whitby to connect Highway 407 with Highway 401. The second phase will begin construction this year, and with phased openings in 2017 and 2020, the highway will further extend the toll road to Highway 35 in Clarington, including an additional north-south link between Highway 401 and Highway 407 east of Oshawa.
The Ministry is also moving forward with two longer range projects, not set to begin construction for several years. This includes the further widening and expansion of HOV lanes on the 401 from the Credit River to Milton, extending the 12 lane section of the highway significantly. Highway 427 is also expected to be extended 6km north within the coming decade, from its current terminus at Highway 7 to Major Mackenzie Drive.
The transportation network of the GTA is set for a revolutionary transformation over the coming decade, and there is lots to pay attention to in the coming year. For more information, click on one of our database files linked below, and feel free to voice your opinion in the comment section provided.