On May 11th, Metrolinx issued a Notice of Commencement and Public Engagement for the expansion of the Barrie GO Rail Corridor. This notice formally begins the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), which will include an Environmental Project Report (EPR). As part of this process, online public engagement is open from May 11th to June 1st.

The plan for the Barrie rail corridor, grouped under Metrolinx's larger Regional Express Rail (RER) plan, is to electrify and double track the entire corridor from Lansdowne Avenue in Toronto (where the line diverges from the Kitchener corridor) and Allandale Waterfront GO station in Barrie. This work will require numerous upgrades or replacements of bridges and culverts along the line. The project aims to increase frequencies from the current uni-directional peak-only service, to two-way all-day service running every 15 minutes to Aurora GO, as well as peak, midday, evening, and weekend GO Train service to Allandale Waterfront GO. Construction on the corridor is expected to be completed by 2025.

Planned frequencies for the Barrie GO corridor after implementation of RER, image courtesy of Metrolinx

There are also plans to upgrade stations along the line, including Rutherford, Maple, King City, Aurora, Newmarket, East Gwillimbury, Bradford, Barrie South, and Allandale Waterfront. In fact, there are only five stations along the corridor that are not included on that list. The first is the new Downsview Park station, which is currently under construction and is due to open in late 2017 along with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE), to which it will provide a direct transfer.

Downsview Park GO under construction as part of the TYSSE project, image courtesy of the TTC

The second is Caledonia GO, which is being built as part of the Crosstown LRT station of the same name. Like at Downsview Park, the station will feature a direct connection between the GO station above and the LRT station underground. The remaining three are Kirby GO, Mulock GO, and Innisfil GO, which were all announced as infill stations last summer, and will be added to the line as part of the RER program.

Render of Caledonia GO station, featuring a direct connection to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, image courtesy of Metrolinx

Many of the existing stations were built as single track stations to handle uni-directional peak-only traffic, and thus require significant upgrades in order to handle the service increases described above. Piecemeal work has been ongoing for several years in advance of this larger initiative, such as the construction of new pedestrian tunnels at Maple GO, which began late last year. The purpose of these tunnels was to connect the existing station building and parking area to a new second platform, which was required in order to support the planned service increases.

Improvements being made to Maple GO in anticipation of RER, including new pedestrian tunnels, image courtesy of Metrolinx

One of the most controversial aspects of the Barrie rail corridor expansion has been the proposed Davenport Diamond Grade Separation. The project consists of a 1.4 km elevated guideway, extending from north of Bloor St West to just south of Davenport Rd, over Canadian Pacific's (CP) North Toronto Sub, one of the busiest freight corridors in the country. The Barrie line currently crosses via an at-grade 'diamond', which severely limits the frequency at which GO trains can operate. In order for the corridor to support the RER frequencies that are desired, a grade-separated crossing is required. Metrolinx examined the possibilities of building either a tunnel, a trench, or an elevated structure, and concluded that the elevated structure could be built in less time, at a lower cost, and impact fewer neighbouring residents.

The 3 options examined as part of the Davenport Diamond Grade Separation project, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The initial proposal was met with opposition by many in the community, and Metrolinx engaged in extensive public consultation in order to improve the plan. Improvements made as the design progressed included using higher quality materials on some sections of the guideway, and improving the pedestrian environment around and under the guideway. While the project still faces some pockets of opposition in the community, the EPR was completed on May 26, 2016, and the project is currently in Preliminary Design and Public Realm Detailed Design. Construction on the overpass is scheduled to begin in March 2019 and extend until June 2021, with the public realm construction expected to be completed by 2022.

View looking east along Antler Street toward Guideway, image courtesy of Metrolinx

UrbanToronto will keep you updated on the Barrie GO Rail Corridor Expansion as the project progresses towards its 2025 completion. In the meantime, you can join the discussion by visiting the forum pages on GO Electrification, GO Construction Projects, and the Davenport Diamond Grade Separation, or by leaving a comment in the space below.