Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

pedestrian safety

Thursday, 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.

the utility bonus

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

click here to see our YouTube video about utilities!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed how often we post a story on some aspect of utility infrastructure. That’s because, as much as our main focus is transit, relocating and upgrading utilities is a very significant  piece of our construction project just on its own, in terms of effort, time and money.

Most of our posts are about the complexities and challenges of utility relocation. But the most important story is about the bonus: at the same time as we’re building new transit, York Region residents and businesses are going to be getting new telecommunications, water, sewage, drainage, power and gas lines to power them into the future.

Unlike a single construction project with one overall manager, the utility project demands that many players work together collaboratively. Working within multiple agreements and relationships, our projects [funded by Metrolinx], the Regional and local municipalities, and the utility companies all work together to coordinate the utility construction.

Whereas York Region Rapid Transit Corporation leads the design decisions for the transit project, it’s the utility companies – including private companies and municipal utility companies – who determine what they need to meet the needs of their customers. Starting with our project’s alignment and overall design, it’s up to the utility companies to decide what infrastructure they’ll need as the population grows, and where it needs to go. For this, they need to take into account future development as well as current needs.

Because there’s not much room down there, and there’s a logical order to what goes in first, the utilities need to work out their plans in ways that work for everyone. In some cases they can jointly locate their services, but more often they need their own space within a separate trench or on an overhead line. Finally, they are responsible for carrying out their own construction, with only one crew able to work in a given area at a time.

Because we’re all equal players in this, coordinating activities requires us to work together, including our project team, the designers and construction experts working for the utility companies, and the various levels of government.

With every vivaNext corridor that gets completed, the end result is increased telecommunications capacity, upgraded water and sewage, better drainage, and new service connections to individual houses and businesses. That’s a future bonus that’s definitely worth the effort and a benefit for everyone.

 

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Friday, May 26th, 2017

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Have you ever walked past those construction sites surrounded by wood walls, and wanted a peek inside to see what’s being built? Curiosity is good – it helps us to move forward and to try new things. In York Region right now, we have a chance to sneak a peek at what’s to come.

In some cases, it’s right out there in the middle of the road. Communities with rapidway construction underway can see how their street will look once it’s done, by looking at Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill or Davis Drive in Newmarket. It’s more than bus lanes – it’s new utilities and infrastructure like bridges, tree-lined sidewalks and where possible, bike lanes.

In Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], we can see the transit hub on the way in the next year that will include a super-sized vivastation in the centre of Highway 7, linking to a YRT bus terminal via an underground pathway and above ground plaza, and connecting directly to the new subway platform below via escalator and elevator.

We can even get a peek at the new subway stations that are part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project. TTC is hosting a Doors Open Toronto event this Saturday only, at the new Downsview Park Station and York University Station, set to open for service at the end of 2017. Information about the event is available on the project website, and if you can’t go, be sure to take a look at the photos posted by project staff on their Flickr site. And check out this TTC video of the future subway ride from Downsview Park to VMC, recorded last year to celebrate the final tracks being laid.

So if you’re curious about the subway, be sure to visit Downsview or York University Stations this Saturday. And if you’re curious about transit in York Region, feel free to ask us a question or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

keeping our workers safe

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

keeping our workers safe

2017 is a huge year for the vivaNext program, with rapidway and terminal construction projects under design or taking shape in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Underlying all this construction activity is one constant priority: keeping the construction crews safe.  Obviously, our contractors aren’t unique in their commitment to safe work practices – worker safety should be a top priority for any organization. This priority is backed up with the force of law. With a few limited exceptions, every worker and work space in Ontario is required to meet the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario [OHSA].

Under the OHSA, all companies have to develop a health and safety policy, setting out management’s commitment to providing a safe workplace. To ensure this commitment is then followed up by action, the OHSA requires employers to develop and implement a safety program to implement the policy. Safety programs are required to address general safety precautions such as worker training, fire prevention and first aid, as well as procedures and requirements addressing the specific workplace hazards company workers may face.

At a minimum, vivaNext contractors are required to follow the OHSA rules, and to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of their crews. Supervisors and crews involved in roadwork are trained in safe practices working around heavy equipment and active traffic lanes, and on the precautions needed for work involving trenching. There are multiple and stringent requirements for work around utilities.

Safety on structures like our new Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] calls for very extensive safety training. Workers working up high, like the welders, painters and crews installing the steel frame and glass, are trained in and must follow rigorous safety procedures at every step of their work. Explicit requirements are established to manage multiple activities being carried out in one area, to prevent workers accidentally encroaching into the space where other activities are underway.

Safe work requires every step to be planned in advance, and supervisors and crew are all expected to look out for each other, and to immediately flag anything they think might be unsafe. Any incident, no matter how minor, is carefully analyzed to identify potential lessons learned, to avoid it happening again. Everyone working on our projects, including our contractors, trades and all of us at vivaNext, is encouraged to point out anything they think might be a potential risk.

By empowering everyone to make safety their own personal priority, from the individual worker to the members of the senior management teams of vivaNext and our contractors, we can know that we’re doing our best to keep the crews who are widening our roads and building our stations safe and sound.

 

matching the heights

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

matching the heights

With the extraordinary maneuvering required to install the roof sections of the VMC BRT station in its location in the centre of Highway 7, you might think the most challenging part of this project has been its incredible glass and steel canopy.

It’s true that installing the canopy of the station required a lot of planning and meticulous engineering. But actually, the coordination of the underground subway station with the BRT station above has been – and still is – a much more complex logistical challenge.

the mechanics of it all

Building the actual physical connections between the two structures was involved but not unduly complicated, similar to any building that has a framed structure on top of a concrete slab. Because the top of the station is wider than the lower part and overhangs at the edges, we couldn’t use rebar dowels, which are the most common construction method. Instead, we used mechanical couplings that enabled us to essentially bolt the top to the bottom.

working together

What makes the project more challenging is that the subway station is being built by the TTC, while the above ground BRT station is being built by vivaNext. With two different owners, and two different contractors, the project demands an intensive degree of coordination and planning.

Joint planning work began long ago, starting with establishing the specific requirements for how the project needed to be built, both below and above ground, and inside and outside the subway station. With the TTC building the subway station up to the surface, and vivaNext building the BRT station from the ground up, the heights of floors and ceilings had to line up perfectly.

top to bottom, inside and out

The vertical elements between the lower and upper floors – including the stairs, escalators and elevators – had to be installed early, with no margin for error. Escalators are very rigid, designed to fit perfectly between floors. And because the rapidway runs right through the station, the top of the escalator, stairs and elevator also had to align precisely with the existing level of Highway 7 outside.

At the same time as the TTC was building the lower levels of the subway station, we were outside building the civil works – the roadway, curbs and gutters – that surround the BRT station. Again, because the rapidway runs through the station, the heights of the underground parts of these elements had to fit with the height of the subway box below.

The BRT station is well on its way and is already a head-turner. In the not-too-distant future, all of this engineering and coordination will make it possible for you to step off the escalator at VMC subway station and easily make your way to the BRT station on Highway 7 and beyond.

See an artist’s rendering of the VMC BRT station once complete.

 

making sparks fly

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

making sparks fly

If you’ve been near the future Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] vivastation recently, you’ve likely seen our welding crews up on man-lifts. And if you’re like most people, you probably didn’t give the welding process much thought – welding is welding, right? Lots of protective clothing, impressive clouds of sparks, and something gets permanently stuck to something else.

Of course, as always with all our engineering and construction activities, there’s so much more going on than meets the eye, and welding on the VMC station is no exception. Here’s the primer on what they’re doing up there, and what some of the complexities are.

Since we’re talking vivaNext, form and function both matter. There are two ways to join two pieces of metal: bolting them together, or welding them. Bolting works well enough, and is the most common method used on bridges, high rises and many other structures. But bolts show, and when the design – as for the VMC station – is for a smooth, seamless architectural look, bolts would be out of place. So welding was chosen as the method to join the pieces of steel throughout the structure.

Welding design takes into account the ultimate strength and performance needed from the structure being joined together, including the loads it will bear, and any flexibility it will require. In the case of the station’s steel superstructure, we are using “full penetration” welding. That means that the two elements being welded together are literally being fused into one piece. Rather than one piece being stuck onto the other, enough heat is applied that the two pieces melt and become one at a molecular level. With this type of welding, it’s not just one surface being glued to another; the joint literally goes through the full depth of the elements being connected. The resulting element is as strong structurally as one solid piece of material.

Once the weld is done, it is reviewed by the welding contractor for certification that the weld meets the required standards including having no impurities or voids. The reviews are generally done visually, although in some cases x-rays will be used. Our general contractor will also do their own quality control, and carry out random spot-checks on many of the welds.

In general, welding can be done until the temperature drops to -18 Celsius. But this specialized kind of welding requires warmer outside temperatures. When temperatures are -5 or below, some weld areas may need to be pre-heated with electrodes.

We’re moving as fast as we can to get the roughly 200 structural welds done, with welders working in shifts, each safely attached by full harnesses to a man-lift while they’re up high. Once the sparks are finished, and because it’s too cold out to paint steel, our last step will be to protect the welded areas with an anti-rust finish.

If you’re in the VMC area, we hope you’ll slow down and look around you. If you do, you’ll be able to admire up close its sleek, architectural lines, and understand all the work that went into making the steel superstructure smooth, strong and beautiful.

 

changing lights

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Most people look at traffic signals every day, but don’t notice how they’re configured, or why they’re installed the way they are. Traffic signals change quite a bit with our construction projects, and not just from green to yellow to red.

Once a project is underway, each intersection in the construction area receives a new, temporary traffic signal pole on each corner, set farther back from the road. Then temporary traffic signals are strung on wires across the intersection from these temporary poles.

Once the temporary poles are in place, the old poles and signals are removed, including any poles in the centre median in each direction.

Having the temporary poles farther back from the road allows access for relocating utilities and widening the road. As lanes are shifted and the road is widened, the temporary signals are adjusted along the wires to ensure they’re in the correct place for traffic and pedestrians.

Later in the project, new poles are installed in their final location, and permanent traffic signals are added, along with a dedicated left/U-turn signal.

Each time the traffic signals are changed, paid-duty police officers are on hand at each intersection for a few hours to ensure traffic flows safely through the intersection. If you’re on Yonge Street in Newmarket or Bathurst and Centre Streets in Vaughan, you’ve seen this firsthand recently.

For a peek at the final outcome, check out the sections of rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Davis Drive in Newmarket.

Despite the cold weather, the vivaNext team continues to work out on the corridors and behind the scenes – making progress as seamlessly as possible.

 

so many different activities this year in Vaughan!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Vaughan 2016 year in review

So much has happened this year along Bathurst and Centre and on Highway 7 West. Just take a look!

In this video, you can check out some of this year’s behind-the-scenes activity – like trees being transplanted to parks, and pre-construction work – as well as the very visible work you saw, like water main and gas main construction.

It was a big year for rapidway work as well, with boulevard and planting on Highway 7, red asphalt in the rapidway and the big vivastation canopy going up in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre area.

New utilities, wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, shade-giving trees – and smooth rapidway are all part of the vivaNext projects, creating new infrastructure that will serve generations to come, and leave a lasting legacy for the Highway 7 West and Bathurst & Centre communities in Vaughan.

As the year comes to an end, it is great to reflect on our accomplishments. We look forward to more progress in 2017.

For more information on ongoing work 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.