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Rail line underpass opens the door to a neighborhood revitalization

Client: City of Toronto
Project: Dufferin Street Underpass
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Services Provided for this Project
  • concept design
  • environmental assessment
  • bridge & structural engineering
  • construction engineering & temporary works
  • utilities & services relocation
  • stormwater management
  • landscaping & urban design - public consultations
  • electrical engineering & lighting
  • provisions for artwork
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Joanne McCall, Division VP
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For more than a century the southbound journey on Dufferin Street in Toronto was stopped short by a major, multi-track rail corridor. Cars, buses and emergency vehicles alike were forced to turn left, entering the infamous "Dufferin Jog"—a three-block circuitous route through a residential neighborhood.

Delcan was contracted to find a solution that would seamlessly link the two parts of Dufferin Street. The City of Toronto billed this project as an exercise in "urban place-making," wanting to both improve access and to revitalize the community. Delcan's crisp urban design met these requirements by drawing on community input to create a bright, open corridor with a stone parkette, a grassy knoll and well-lit walls for the installation of art. These recommendations were enthusiastically supported by the City and local residents.    

The straight-through alignment for the final configuration minimized property acquisition and provided the smallest footprint in terms of construction and permanent infrastructure. The challenge posed for Delcan engineers was that the underpass would need to be constructed underneath an active multi-rail corridor. To achieve this, and in order to make the geometry fit, Delcan elected to raise two tracks marginally, rather than lower the roadway. This allowed the existing traffic on Queen and Dufferin Streets to continue undisrupted, while limiting major works on the railway corridor itself.

The solution Delcan ultimately designed for the Dufferin Street Underpass added a rigid frame structure beneath the railway track, creating a "bridge on a bridge" configuration. Observing minimal clearances, tight confines, very large loads and the desire to keep trains running, the new underpass was built to have existing railway bridges actually supported on the underpass' roof.

In November 2010, the new underpass opened to ringing endorsements from city residents and local media. Having met its technical goals with minimal interference to the neighborhood, travel times were reduced and the Toronto Transit Commission announced expected savings of close to $450,000 per year by making Dufferin bus trips more efficient.

"It's a huge improvement from a transportation perspective, plus it's created a really nice place in the community," said Toronto's mayor, David Miller.

Plans are currently underway to improve the neighborhood formerly "trapped" north of Queen Street. The improved access provided by the Delcan design, including the pedestrian walkways and bike-friendly features, has inspired forward thinking residents to redefine the area as a modern, vibrant and growing community with plans for new development and further cultural improvements.

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Tags: bridgeunderpasstunnelinfrastructurerailwaypreliminary designdetailed designtender documentsspecificationon-site inspectionengineering servicesurban place-making

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