Posts Tagged ‘utilities’

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.


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

digging deep >> utilities at a glance

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

digging deep >> utilities at a glance

Before we can build dedicated rapid transit lanes, wider sidewalks, and plant beautiful greenery above ground, we need to go underground – to the world of utilities.

Our latest video peels back the layers to reveal all the modern conveniences we all depend on and often take for granted. We’ll shed some light on the steps we take to relocate critical infrastructure and explain why you see different crews come back to the same location as work progresses.

The most common things you’ll find are storm and sanitary sewers and pipes, water mains, gas mains, electrical wires, television/internet cables and phone lines.

We also take a look at the latest technology under the median and sidewalk planters , allowing trees and other plants to have deep, healthy root systems, and providing natural storm water management.

We’re just scratching the surface, but you’ll get a glimpse of how we replace and update infrastructure as an important investment that improves everyone’s quality of life.


the murky world of underground infrastructure

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

the murky world of underground infrastructure

Property ownership and development are generally straightforward concepts: people or businesses own land, including any assets that are built on that land, and only they can decide when and if any improvements are to be made.

But what happens when the property is located underground, and the improvements are being made by someone other than the property owner? Welcome to the murky and confusing world of underground infrastructure, where ownership and decision-making are much more complex than above ground.

Underground infrastructure, which includes gas and power lines, telecommunications, watermains and sewers, is always owned by either a private company or the municipality. But generally utilities are located under roads or sidewalks, or on private property; utility companies typically do not own the land where their utilities are located.

In most cases underground infrastructure is located in the “public right-of-way”, including roads, sidewalks and boulevards. If a utility company wants to make a change to their own infrastructure, such as making a repair or increasing capacity, they need to get municipal approval before any work can be done. This “municipal consent” process is set out in legislation, and ensures municipalities can control and coordinate utility work on public lands or roads. This is critical, especially when utility work requires road closures or detours or will have some other impact on the public.

Municipalities also can set restrictions on when and how utilities can access their own infrastructure, to minimize impacts on the public and protect the municipality’s own infrastructure. For example, a municipality might impose a moratorium on changes to private infrastructure on newly built or repaired streets, so that new asphalt isn’t dug up.

In all cases, our projects spend a lot of time coordinating with utility companies to resolve any conflicts between the rapidway and streetscape elements we’re building, and the multiple utilities using the same space. In many cases, utilities can co-locate, for example telecommunications may share a common duct bank, and be buried next to hydro. Designs for all relocated utilities have to work with our vivaNext design, and in some cases where space is limited, working through the design process to fit in all the elements can be extremely challenging. Municipalities also have views on where they want elements located; the Region avoids locating utilities in their roadway, whereas local municipalities prefer to keep utilities away from the planters.

Once the design is established, a schedule is worked out with the Region or municipalities, specifying how long the utility work will take. Utilities are given a specified amount of time to close lanes as part of the final permit; even if the work is next to the road, lanes often need to be closed to give workers room to work safely. Our design-builders will coordinate construction work with the utility relocations, since only one activity can be carried out at a time in any given place.

The last but very important part of this complicated process is reducing the disruption for nearby residents and businesses. Once the design and municipal consent is complete, the utility and vivaNext community liaison team work with property owners to discuss access to properties while work is underway.

A lot of moving parts need to be coordinated and resolved before any underground infrastructure gets moved, but our teams are committed to coordinating these efforts with everyone’s best interests in mind.



sometimes construction is what you don’t see

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

sometimes construction is what you don't see

In many areas of the vivaNext projects, construction work is definitely visible – especially on Davis Drive and along Highway 7 West. In others areas – such as Yonge Street – it’s not quite so obvious. But work on Yonge Street has been going on this year for months, and it’s also starting up in phase 2 of the Highway 7 West rapidway.

Here’s some of what we’ve been up to – a very important part of construction – utilities!

there’s a lot going on underground

Upgrading the utilities to prepare for the growing population of York Region is a must. Plus, in order to upgrade utilities and widen the road for the rapidway, the existing utilities below the roadside have to be moved.

That’s because locating, upgrading and relocating utilities involves more than just building a road. And each utility has its own requirements.

utilities keep everything working

Utility work along the rapidway includes locating, removing and upgrading water mains and storm sewers, removing old copper cable and installing fiber optic cable for telecommunications, electricity, shutting down old gas mains and installing new ones, and it also includes upgrades and reconstruction to bridges and culverts and moving and upgrading traffic signals and street lights.

but first…

The first thing that happens along any new rapidway project is “utility investigations,” which means identifying where existing utilities are, to confirm what has to be moved. We can’t upgrade them until we find them, and some utilities can be as old as the road – installed before towns began documenting utility locations. So if you see crews digging small test pits along Yonge, you’ll know that’s a utility investigation where crews are making sure the utilities are where we think they are, and checking out what condition they’re in.

Next time you’re playing the game of Monopoly and you land on “Utilities,” feel lucky. “Utilities” are what keeps everything working at “Boardwalk,” “Park Place” and VivaNext!

For emailed updates about the progress of the various vivaNext projects: click here to subscribe.


strong foundations

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

click to see the video: strong foundations

If you’ve seen the completed rapidway on Highway 7 East, you’ll know that the roadway has gotten a major facelift. VivaNext is building sleek, modern and welcoming transit stations and streetscapes throughout York Region. But that’s not all. During the construction of each new rapidway, older infrastructure is upgraded to lay a strong foundation for the social and economic development that will accompany a rapid transit network.

York Region’s population is expected to increase by 600,000 by the year 2041. As York Region grows into a more urban destination, it’s important to ensure that we have the infrastructure necessary to support a larger, denser population. Taking the time to replace infrastructure during rapidway construction allows us to support this growth, while also reducing future maintenance and repair costs. As the rapidways are being built, water mains, storm sewers, street lights, and other utilities are also being upgraded, expanded or renewed, and bridges and culverts are being assessed and rebuilt as needed.

The future is promising and by investing in new infrastructure, vivaNext is supporting the prosperity of York Region’s communities well into the future. To see how we’re laying a strong foundation for social and economic growth, watch our video.



the challenge of relocating utilities

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

The Challenge of Relocating Utilities

If we were building our vivaNext rapidways across undeveloped fields, widening the roadway to incorporate the median bus lanes would be a straightforward construction project involving excavation, building the road base and drainage system, boulevard and station construction, installing illumination, and paving. But, in all our projects, there are many existing utilities along the roadways that need to be moved first. Believe it or not, this part of the project – relocating existing utilities – can sometimes result in the greatest amount of complexity and schedule coordination. Here’s a primer on why this least-obvious part of the project can be so time-consuming, but is so critical, yet so complicated.

Utilities – which on our projects include a wide number of companies providing electricity, telecommunications, cable and gas – are typically private entities, which in some cases have connections to local municipalities, and in other cases are private for-profit organizations. In all cases, utilities own their own infrastructure and are responsible for designing, installing, paying for, and maintaining it. Utilities have direct relationships with their own customers, and have to plan for, manage and respond to service interruptions.

With so many users relying on the services along the roadway corridors, we need to work together before we can widen the roadway for the vivaNext project. A first step is to identify existing utilities, to confirm what has to be moved out of the way. To complete this first step, we collect all the information we can, including “as-builts,” which are drawings showing the location of existing utilities. Using the as-builts [and sometimes ground penetrating radar], we then carry out physical locates, where we dig small test pits to confirm that utilities are where we think they are, and what condition they’re in.

Once there is agreement on which utilities need to be moved, each company designs a new alignment for their service, or designs a shared structure such as an underground duct bank, with another company. These relocation designs have to work with our project’s requirements and dimensions [and our project’s design has to provide for a reasonable relocation design for the utilities], as well as with the alignments of all the other utilities. Just completing the design coordination and review alone is a complex and iterative process.

With the utility relocation designs complete, municipalities and other approval bodies such as the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources and local conservation authorities – and railway companies where rail crossings are involved – review, comment on, and hopefully approve the plans. In many cases, private property owners also need to agree to provide access to the utility companies, adding yet another layer of complexity and coordination.

The final stage is the actual construction of the relocated utilities. Because there are strict construction rules about the separation required between crews, we work carefully to sequence the relocation work.

The roadway widening cannot be completed until utility relocations are finished in any given area. And as in any activity where multiple organizations have operations underway, we all need to work together collaboratively, and coordinating our efforts is critical, so we can get the rapidways built and in service for you. Like I said….complicated!


The power of development

Friday, April 12th, 2013

What’s the significance of a pole? In the past few years some of York Region’s towns and cities have been talking about whether or not to bury hydro lines. We’re designing and building rapidways in key urban areas, so naturally the topic of hydro poles and lines comes up when we bring forward new pedestrian-friendly, attractive streetscapes.

Understandably, most people would like hydro lines to be buried, rather than hung from hydro poles. Burying hydro lines is a major project though, and so deserves careful consideration. The cost of relocating lines underground all at once can be up to 10 times the cost of keeping them above ground. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth the money, but it is a big investment.

We support municipalities in their efforts to bury hydro lines, and we also understand why it can’t always be done all at once. Most urban planners agree that hydro poles can be buried over time as a natural result of development and growth, and this is how it could happen:

  • We build rapid transit in key growth areas, attracting people to the added convenience and pedestrian-friendly environment.
  • Where there are people moving in, there will likely be development.
  • When developers build new buildings, hydro lines are often buried as part of the project, either by their own choice or by local zoning regulations.

Regardless of whether hydro poles are buried or not, we’re designing modern streetscapes along the viva corridors. Where hydro poles are being replaced as part of our rapidway projects, we make poles as attractive as possible using special finishes and features. In some cases we use poles that don’t need guy wires, and higher poles to minimize the appearance of the wires. Wherever possible, we bury telecommunications and fibre lines, reducing the number of wires on new hydro poles.

Urban planning is full of important decisions, and the rapidway designs include innovative ideas, while building great neighbourhoods for future generations.