An Update from Parks Construction Manager

Key Message: Trail will open soon, pending 3rd party utility re-location. Final construction work will continue into September.

Dear Trail Users

I understand your frustration on this project. We are working to get this trail open as soon as possible. When we reopen, the safety of this trail, its surfaces, connection to the Bayview multi-use trail and the visitor experience will be greatly improved, but I realize it is hard to take comfort in these improvements while the trail remains closed.

Currently, we are waiting for a third-party utility that runs across the trail to be relocated so that final grades are acceptable for cyclists and do not impose a hazard. While this relocation is not the last of the work to be done, we expect that the trail will open after this work is completed. Additional safety protocols will be established to allow the final construction work to be completed while the trail remains open.

The Lower Don Trail is a major spine in the utility infrastructure of this city. Three high-pressure oil pipelines, a gas line, as well as a major high-speed fibre optic line are all hidden in the trail alignment. On top of this is the visible utility infrastructure of electrical corridors and two rail corridors, all sandwiched within this green oasis of a recreational trail. As a result, there is very little working room between the rail, Don Valley Parkway and the river.

Unusual high water and heavy rain this season has also affected the productivity of crews working in tight proximity to the river. Water levels of the Lower Don overflowed the banks in several areas of the project more than once this year, causing flooding in our work areas.

I do want to clarify the status on the permits required and the timing of the applications. The City consulted with both Metrolinx and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) about requirements and permits through the design process beginning in 2014.  TRCA permits were completed in one step. Metrolinx requires permits be completed in a sequential process for each stage of work, as each stage is completed.  Each submission takes several weeks to review and process and some of these permits have required several submissions. The most recent permit is a final re-submission for the last of 15 Metrolinx permits, which includes those needed by third-party utilities to relocate within the corridor as part of the project as well. This is the process for all Metrolinx permits for these types of projects.

There have been lessons learned in the permit review and approval process that will be applied to the next stage of Lower Don work, and indeed all future trail work. Also, I am working with staff to improve how we plan and communicate trail detours to reduce the effect on trail users. This work includes ensuring contractors are better able to safely maintain, to the fullest extent possible, public access to trails and public facilities during construction.

We look forward to the reopening and we hope you will attend the formal celebration of the improved trail later in the fall.

Regards,

Daniel McLaughlin

Manager, Construction Management & Capital Projects

Parks Development and Capital Projects

Parks Forestry and Recreation

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22 thoughts on “An Update from Parks Construction Manager

  1. When you write that the trail will reopen soon, what do you mean by “soon”? I appreciate that the answer depends on the work of a third-party utility, so you cannot commit to something out of your control, but are you anticipating days? Weeks? What is PFR currently anticipating?

    Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for the update. Greatly appreciated. Looking forward to the reopening and formal announcement. I will attend.

    Sent from my iPad

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  3. Wow that is really too bad to hear about a September opening. Likely to be Christmas time in reality.

    Hoping to see at least the Pottery road bridge/rail crossing opened earlier. There are quite a lot of daily commuters like me forced onto Potter Road or use the sidewalk to get around to Bayview. I usually choose the sidewalk and then walk along the Bayview Rd cross-walk —- the cars drive awful quick around those bends across the tracks.

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  4. Daniel…what next stage of lower Don work?! Does this mean that when the current work is miraculously completed then no sooner will another portion of the trail be closed for 2 years?

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    • Daniel. A shame, but I think this comment makes sense. Can you comment on this point? It has been two years and the closure is really redirecting folks. Same thing is happening on the north end at Willet Creek which also is closed and forcing me to cycle on roads. Please advise? Thank you

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    • The original project was to go to the bottom and be completed for the PanAm games, but was scaled back because it exceeded the budget. The section south of Riverdale footbridge still needs to be done and, as you know, is in terrible condition.

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  5. So exactly when will the trail finally be opened?
    Will there be a public meeting to review how this project was managed and communicated and review and identify lessons learned so that bikers in this city never have to be so inconvenienced by a project like this again?

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    • The trail could be open in the next week or two. I don’t have an exact date as we relying on third-parties and weather is usually a factor.

      Your suggest to have a “public meeting to review how this project was managed” is interesting. I’ll pass on to management.

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  6. Really it’s a shame this has taken so long and that a full closure was needed for so very long. We lost 2 summers to this project, and still there is no concrete timeline for opening. Fitness and healthy activity should be high priorities for the City of Toronto. I appreciate that there will be a review of process and there are apologies for the extended inconvenience, but really this should have never happened. It’s astonishing how huge the margin of error was between the estimates and the reality. So, I totally do not trust this latest update and I expect we still won’t have an open trail by 2018.

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  7. The northern end of the bikeway on the west side of Bayview at Pottery Road is unmarked and partially unpaved. We need this as an alternative and a safe, paved and signed connection from the Lower Don Trail north of Pottery Road is the least that could be done. Now, there is a sudden closure and no particular place to ride safely nor a proper turn indicated to go south. The reverse is true going north. Most cyclists appear to ride on the sidewalk to cross the river and the tracks, which is illegal and leads to a problem getting across to the bikeway. Someone should take a look and do something. It looks like the construction process stopped before this was considered.

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    • If i understand you correctly, you referring to the needed connection from the trails to the new Pottery Road Trail Bridge. We have been waiting for Metrolinx to complete required work to complete the trail across the active rail line. These missing connections and new wayfinding signs should be installed in mid-September.

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      • Thanks – at the time of that post – even the connection to Pottery Road at Bayview was in bad shape. I was there today and there is now a paved sidewalk on the east side. When the trail opens in September I hope that the connection is indeed put in place – but also see my comment about the problematic road crossing. I ride the route from the upper part of the Lower Don Trail to Pottery to Bayview to Castle Frank every day. This has been a place where progress is slow but there is progress. Many years ago, the Metro Transportation engineer told me that they wanted no bikes on arterial roads and they were planning to remove the shoulder lanes on Bayview. That never happened so I await progress, even if it gets caught in relocating unknown utility lines.

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  8. Two entire summer’s without a viable alternative to the congested lakeshore route has been really disappointing. I used to look forward to cycling up the lower don to Sunnybrook and back as part of my exercise routine. Am really struggling to understand how it can take such a long time to repair a bicycle path… when you think about it how much complexity can really be involved when comparing it to other roadwork projects. I feel like situations like this are the reason we pay ridiculously high taxes for poorly planned and executed construction projects in the city. Seems like it’s time for a changeup in management and contract negotiation. Maybe we should invest more in alternative paths for recreational use and public transit rather than converting roadways within the actual city infrastructure to cycling lanes which realistically are really only useful for half of the year anyway and cause more traffic chaos than they do good.

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  9. Sad that a project scheduled to be completed in the Spring, then July and now mid September is to be rejoiced. Daniel wants us to come to the opening celebration. He should be embarrassed that this project has taken this long. Generally, while he may have overstated it somewhat, I share Christopher’s view about when we can expect a fully open trail. Haven’t yet read about necessary further lower Don trail work.
    In that regard, picking up on what Ron has said above, perhaps Daniel can explain why the work connecting the separated bike path with the trail at Bayview & Pottery Rd. cannot be coordinated so that once it gets started it can be completed. As of last Saturday when I rode by this site it remained the same, unfinished! Is there a date by which it will happen?

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  10. Pingback: Week in review: August 19, 2017 | TriTAG

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