CN Bridge expansion: when transit intersects

Did you know that as part of vivaNext’s rapidway project on Highway 7 West in the City of Vaughan, construction is underway to expand the south side of the Canadian National Railway [CN] MacMillan Bridge? The bridge surface, located west of Keele Street will be widened approximately 8-metres to accommodate dedicated rapidway lanes, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

Aside from being one of the most widely-used bridges along Highway 7, most drivers may not even realize that each time they cross the bridge, they are driving over the CN MacMillan Rail Yard, the largest rail yard in Canada.

Named after former CN president, Norman John MacMillan, the yard measures approximately 6.5-kilometres in length and 1.6-kilometres in width and was developed in the late 1950s as part of CN’s redesign of the Toronto trackage network. The yard operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and handles over 1 million railcars per year to service local businesses in the Vaughan area, as well as the broader North American economy!

As part of the bridge widening, construction activities include:

  • removing the existing walls and sidewalks on the south side
  • backfilling with 8,000 tonnes of earth
  • pouring 4,000 tonnes of concrete to build walls, columns, sidewalks and bridge decks
  • embedding 300 tonnes of reinforcing steel and;
  • completing the surface finish with new light standards and pedestrian hand rails.

Sounds like a lot right? So how do we do this without impacting CN’s business?

During construction, rail yard operations along the 10 sets of tracks will be maintained, and the contractor will work closely with CN to coordinate activities around train schedules. The majority of the construction activity will happen below and underneath the bridge. Motorists will notice large equipment and construction vehicles such as large cranes, transport trucks, drill rigs and concrete pump trucks onsite for certain operations, including sub-surface drilling, pouring concrete and the installation of large pre-cast concrete sections.  With the increase in construction vehicles, safety awareness is important if you are travelling through the area.

In order to maintain traffic flow along Highway 7 during the bridge expansion, the centre median was removed earlier this year and traffic was shifted to the north side of the bridge. To further minimize disruptions, an access road off of Highway 7 is also being constructed for equipment and deliveries. Due to the nature of this work, there will be noise and vibration around the work area. Being mindful of our neighbours, noise and vibration monitoring will be conducted to ensure levels are kept within industry standards.

The first phase of the Highway 7 West rapidway in the City of Vaughan will extend 3.6 kilometres from Interchange Way/Edgeley Boulevard to east of Bowes Road. The project features three new rapidway vivastations, wider sidewalks, landscaped boulevards and transit connections to the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension and the York Region Transit Bus Terminal. The CN Bridge expansion work in Vaughan is expected to be complete in 2016.

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