what’s gravity & slope got to do with it?

August 16th, 2017

While we’re building the rapidway projects, it’s not unusual for us to be talking a lot about retaining walls. If you’ve ever wondered why so much of our work seems to involve retaining walls, the answer can be summed up in two words: gravity and slope.

Simply put, retaining walls prevent soil from sliding down a slope. If a slope is very gradual as you might see on a lawn or wide flowerbed, for the most part the soil and earth pretty much stays put. But where there is a slope over a short distance that creates even a difference in grade, the force of gravity will make the soil slide downwards.

stopping soil slippage

The steeper the slope, the more likely it is that the soil will slide. If you have a lawn that’s even a few centimetres higher than an adjacent driveway or sidewalk, you’ll know that without some kind of edging, eventually the dirt will flow down onto the pavement.

Retaining walls are like edging; they’re structures that keep the soil in place where grades need to change within a short distance. And retaining walls can be short or high. For example, a curb is essentially a very short retaining wall.

where retaining walls fit in on the rapidway

In many stretches along our rapidway construction zones, the adjacent land is either higher or lower than the roadway – in some cases the difference is only a few centimetres, in others it’s a metre or more.

Because we’re widening the road, that difference in grade level now has to be made up over a shorter horizontal distance, making the slope steeper than it was before. In areas where the resulting grade difference between the road and the land slope is very steep, a retaining wall is needed to keep the soil in place.

where design is king

Some of our retaining walls are essentially high curbs; others are high structures requiring handrails and complex foundations.

Every one of our rapidway segments has a significant number of retaining walls, each requiring its own design, approvals and construction process. In all cases, retaining wall construction takes place once utilities have been moved out of the way, and needs to be finished before road widening can be started.

With so many retaining walls forming part of the new streetscape, design considerations are of major importance. A lot of effort goes into ensuring that the new retaining walls contribute to the aesthetics of the streetscape as well as be functional.

Different materials and finishes are used for different walls, from pre-formed wall blocks similar to what you’d use in your own garden, to poured concrete with decorative exterior designs.  Design approaches vary depending on how high the wall is, what kind of foundation it requires, and what it is adjacent to. And if the wall or adjacent slope is especially steep and the wall is next to a sidewalk, it will also get a specially designed handrail.

So the next time you see a bulletin advising about retaining wall work, think of gravity and slopes, and you’ll know that’s why we’re building these additional structures.

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects, be sure to subscribe to email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

#MyYongeStreet Selfie Contest

August 10th, 2017

#MyYongeStreet Selfie Contest

Get your selfie stick ready, the #MyYongeStreet selfie contest launches on Monday, August 14!

We’ve partnered with the Town of Newmarket and the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce to bring the summer of selfies to Yonge Street. Enter for a chance to win weekly prizes or one of three grand prize shopping sprees. We’re proud to support the businesses that make Yonge Street a great place to stop, shop and dine.

here’s how it works

Take a selfie with your purchase from a business on Yonge in Newmarket, share the image on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MyYongeStreet, and you’ll be automatically entered into weekly random draws for a chance to win one of three Yonge shopping sprees. You can also submit your image to contest@vivanext.com for a chance to win.

contest dates:

  • Monday, August 14 through to midnight on Sunday, September 3, 2017

it’s easy to enter:

  1. Visit a business within the Yonge Street rapidway construction area in Newmarket [between Savage Road/Sawmill Valley Drive and Davis Drive].
  2. Take a ‘selfie’ with your purchase in the business on Yonge.
  3. Post your selfie on Twitter or Instagram, or email to contest@vivanext.com, using the hashtag #MyYongeStreet.

prizes!

  • Each week, three lucky winners will receive $100 to be spent in the store where the winning selfie was taken.
  • There will be three grand prize draws for Yonge Street Shopping Sprees valued at $1000, $750 or $500.

To learn more about the contest, visit vivanext.com/selfiecontest.

transportation technology >> the future is calling

August 2nd, 2017

transportation technology >> the future is calling

When you think of the future of transportation, what do you think of? If you’re older than 30, maybe you think of The Jetsons – an old TV series about a futuristic family living in skypads and commuting in bubble-shaped aerocars. The TV show may be a little far-fetched, but recently we’ve seen examples of new transportation technologies that have some similarities.

United Arab Emirates is officially testing the first driverless flying taxi in its largest city, Dubai. The new drone-based taxis were scheduled to begin operating in July, so the results should be in soon. Imagine the impact on traffic-congested cities if commuters took to the skies.

Another emerging technology is the vactrain or Hyperloop – pods travelling through tubes at very high speeds. Earlier this year, MIT students demonstrated the first ever Hyperloop prototype.

In June, China introduced the world’s first rail-free, self-driving “train.” This road-based vehicle with wheels is a cross between a bus and a tram or LRT, and follows a predetermined route. Forward-thinking manufacturers across the globe are busy designing self-driving concept vehicles for use as both personal cars and transit vehicles.

Sometimes new technology is not in the vehicle itself, but in how it’s accessed. New apps, new payment systems, and more accessible vehicles are some of the ongoing improvements. Ridesharing and bike sharing have been around for several years, and many communities are working on ways to integrate them with transit systems.

It’s great to see these examples of innovation and new ideas in mobility. Having more technology options means we’ll be able to design and build innovative infrastructure, helping our communities grow into amazing places to live, today and tomorrow.

the expansion of the Highway 400 bridge on Highway 7 West begins

July 26th, 2017

Many of you have already noticed the work that has begun on Highway 7 West at the bridge over Highway 400, so here’s an overview of the components of the newest mega-feat of engineering that you’ll see happening over the next few years.

The project is part of the Highway 7 West rapidway project in Woodbridge-Vaughan and it will include expanding the bridge – with the new segment added to the north side – by approximately 5 metres.

New piers

Construction includes four new piers to support the expansion, which means new foundations, footing and forms. With multiple lanes above and below, this is a complicated project and safety is paramount for both the travelling public and the workers on site.

Huge girder lift

In September, the first piece of a gigantic girder will be lifted into place. This girder, which is needed to support the expansion of the bridge, will be installed in five pieces.

Multi-use path and rapidway

What makes this project especially remarkable, is that it will not only include dedicated red-asphalt bus lanes, but a pedestrian and cycling path will be constructed in the centre of the bridge between the bus rapidway lanes. Once complete, the bridge will provide roadway and connections for all types of transportation modes.

Realigned ramps

That’s not all. In addition, two of the ramps on the east side of Highway 400 will be realigned in order to accommodate potential future development. And to accommodate the waterway conditions in the area, new culverts will be built under the new ramps.

You’ll be hearing much more about this massive undertaking as time goes on. Next month, we’ll look more closely at what’s involved in expanding the bridge itself – think piers, pile drivers and parapets!

 

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects, be sure to subscribe to email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

 

 

the unique challenge of working around business, residential and other private property

July 19th, 2017

When you’re talking about private property, chances are you’re picturing someone’s home or business, or maybe a piece of land with a fence around it. But did you realize that every square inch of York Region, as in every other jurisdiction in Canada, is actually owned by someone?

Typically, for projects like vivaNext, when work will be taking place on or near private property, we work with a range of property owners, whether it’s a private individual’s home or business or a different level of government. Here’s how it works:

During the earliest design phases, we map out the proposed design for the future roadway or facility, working with existing information about property ownership. For the most part, rapidways and facilities are intentionally designed to fit within property that is already owned by the future operators of our projects – for example, the Region of York or one of our local municipalities.

As the design process gets more detailed, we analyze how the proposed alignment will fit with the properties along the roadway. We also identify any impacts the project will have on each.

In some cases, such as where the road is being widened, the recommended design may show that we might need to encroach onto private property. Sometimes we may only need access onto private property during construction, and sometimes it’s permanent.

With the final design established, and depending on the nature and duration of the property impact for each property, we then follow a series of established procedures to come to an agreement with the owner.

The agreement will include clarification of how our work will affect their property, how long we’ll need access if it’s only temporary, and compensation if we’re acquiring some part of their property.

The options and arrangements will vary depending on the kind of property and what impact our project will have on it; for example, installing a rapidway across a bridge over a 400-series provincial highway will involve different issues and potential strategies with the property’s owner or representative. In this case, it’s the Ministry of Transportation on behalf of the Province of Ontario.

In all cases though, the process of working with property owners to work out access is a complex part of the design and pre-construction work, and involves many different team members including York Region Property Services, Legal Services, York Region Transit, our design builders as well as our project team.

But no matter who the owner is, being respectful of the rights of all our property-owning neighbours is a top priority for our project with dedicated staff like the Community Liaisons to help answer questions in the field.

 

a look back at the CN MacMillan Bridge expansion

July 12th, 2017

As work starts up on the Highway 7 bridge over Highway 400, which is being widened to accommodate rapidway lanes and a multi-use path, let’s take a look at a completed bridge expansion project: the CN MacMillan Bridge.

The Highway 7 bridge passes over the CN MacMillan Rail Yard, the second-biggest rail yard in Canada.

The expansion project, which was part of the Highway7 West-VMC rapidway project, involved widening the bridge by 8.5 metres to accommodate the two lanes of rapidway that opened in February 2017.

Crews poured 4,000 tonnes of concrete to build abutment walls, piers, foundation and piles, sidewalks and decks; embedded 300 tonnes of reinforcing steel; and built a new pedestrian sidewalk and hand-rail and bike lanes!

All of the work expanding the bridge had to be done – and was accomplished – without stopping the trains or impacting the 10 sets of tracks. For safety purposes, before construction even began, crews had to rehearse set-ups and take-downs with numerous safety drills so it would proceed like clockwork.

During construction, crews worked very closely with CN to coordinate work around train schedules. An additional challenge was the fact that the rail yard, which handles one-million-plus cars per year, also operates 24/7.

Mega feats of engineering and construction like the CN Bridge project are beginning again with the expansion of the Highway 7 west bridge over Highway 400. Next month, we’ll take a look at the different components of work involved for this project.

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects be sure to sign up for email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

Yonge Subway Extension moving forward

July 5th, 2017

Yonge Subway Extension moving forward

Recently, the Government of Canada announced more than $36 million in federal funding to support the planning and preliminary engineering of the proposed 7.4 km extension of the existing Yonge Subway line into York Region.

This is a positive announcement for York Region and for the entire GTA, because it allows this critical project to move one step closer.
number one transit priority

Yonge Subway Extension continues to be the top transit priority of York Regional Council, the Region’s nine municipal governments and many of the Region’s business organizations. It’s part of the Metrolinx Next Wave projects and the Government of Ontario committed $55 million to the project last year for design work.
2,500 reasons to move forward

Today, this segment of Yonge Street requires 2,500 bus trips a day to accommodate the current ridership. If the subway is extended, really all of these buses would no longer be needed, significantly reducing traffic congestion and eliminating over 28 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per workday.
good for business

The Region is Canada’s fastest-growing large municipality, home to Canada’s high tech capital and two of the GTA’s four Employment Megazones – Highway 404/Highway 407, and Highway 400/Highway 7.

One of Ontario’s largest business communities, the Region has over 50,000 businesses and almost 600,000 jobs, with an average of 13,000 new jobs every year. Over the last five years, York Region’s workforce has grown at an average annual rate of 3.1%, surpassing growth rates in the nation, province and GTA.
The Yonge Subway Extension will move two riders every second of the day, on average making it easier for everyone to get where they need to go. It’s exciting to see this project – the GTA’s missing link – moving forward!

it’s Canada 150 >> come celebrate!

June 30th, 2017

it’s Canada 150 >> come celebrate!

Even before it became a region in 1971, York Region has been an important part of Canada for more than 150 years. Key fur trade routes travel through the region, and Newmarket hosted the first speech to spark the 1837-1838 rebellions [leading to the British North America Act and the creation of Canada]. In more recent years, we’ve become one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada and headquarters for many international businesses.

There are so many ways to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial and YRT/Viva can get you there. To help you plan your celebration, here are a few of the biggest Canada-150 events in York Region:

At vivaNext, we’re so very proud to be building transit in this beautiful, diverse and growing Region of York. As you enjoy and partake in the festivities, we wish you a wonderful weekend with the best this country has to offer.

crossing a river and marking history on Davis Drive

June 29th, 2017

crossing a river and marking history on Davis Drive

Earlier this week we helped the Town of Newmarket celebrate the history of transportation in Newmarket, at the Keith Bridge on Davis Drive.

The Keith Bridge crosses the Holland River, which was an important centre of the original village in the early 1800s, with a grist mill, tannery, and the earliest settlers nearby. The trade routes from the old market of “York” in the south [now City of Toronto] to this “new market” in the north were important, and led traders and settlers to destinations farther north. In the early 1800s Yonge Street was built, following a branch of the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail used by natives and traders. About 50 years later the first railroad came to Newmarket, following the Holland River near Newmarket’s current Main Street.

Davis Drive played an important role in connecting Yonge Street to the railway and market near Main Street, and over time developed into a place of homes and businesses. In recent years, the Tom Taylor Trail has connected Newmarket with a beautiful place to bike and walk, including crossing under the Keith Bridge.

When the vivaNext project built the Keith Bridge as part of the Davis Drive rapidway, it was transformed from a utilitarian bridge going unnoticed by passersby, into an attractive landmark. It’s not just about appearance though. The Keith Bridge is wider, allowing for the new rapidway lanes and wider sidewalks for pedestrians. Construction also included improved utility lines under the bridge and of course the infrastructure itself, built to last for generations.

We hope that as everyone crosses, they’re reminded of the history of the river, the road and Newmarket. If you’re walking, be sure to stop and take a close look at the beautiful series of historical plaques along the bridge. As we celebrate Canada Day, it is wonderful to preserve a piece of history.

pedestrian safety

June 22nd, 2017

When there’s something on the other side of the street you need to get to, the nearest intersection might not seem close enough. It can be tempting to cross (or jaywalk) in the middle of the road. The problem with jaywalking is that it poses a risk to you as a pedestrian. Drivers aren’t expecting pedestrians in non-pedestrian areas, and may do something unexpected – or not brake in time – for you to cross the road safely.

During construction, crossing at designated crosswalks is even more important than ever. Lane closures can change frequently and when areas are blocked off, drivers must pay close attention to signs and road markings. Drivers might easily miss a pedestrian who is crossing or running into a non-pedestrian safe zone.

Even when crossing at a designated crosswalk, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Be sure to look both ways and stay aware. Put away your phone or tablet, and focus on the road. You should be constantly alert, just like the drivers.

For pedestrians, other safety concerns include the construction zones themselves. There are a lot of hazards around a construction site that you wouldn’t necessarily know about. We block off these work areas and create detours to protect drivers and pedestrians, so it’s important that you respect those boundaries for your own safety.

To keep up on what’s happening in the construction areas where we’re building rapidways, subscribe for email updates at vivaNext.com/subscribe.


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