Thursday, April 23, 2009

Somerset Viaduct (Bridge) over the OTrain Line

Somerset west of Preston rises up and over the OTrain Tracks, near the City Centre Building. At the height of the crest, the bridge itself is only about 20' long; the rest of the road is simply a fill between retaining walls. The road was designed long ago and the angle of the slope means that motorists cannot see what's on the road (for eg, a parked car) over the crest. This creates a stopping-in-time problem.

The solution selected by the City is to narrow the road to two lanes for vehicle traffic. The road is wide enough for a bike lane on each curbside, but whether it is implied or will be painted on I do not know. By narrowing the road, moving vehicles are out of the curbside parking lane.

This project is nearing completion. Decorative lampposts and bollards were installed this week.

The south side concrete sidewalks were laid late last winter and the cement did not set well, with the results the sidewalks are spalled and already look a decade old. More curiously, the bridge repairs -- like the ones at Carling and Prince of Wales -- kept the one-OTrain-track-wide size. [in the comments section, I correct this. This bridge is already two tracks wide] If the OTrain is not double tracked or replaced with a double-track LRT for the next 20 years or so (life span of the repairs) then it will have been a cost effective decision to repair the bridges at their current size. But if the OTrain service is expanded or LRT service to the south is resurrected, the newly repaired bridges will have to be torn out and replaced by longer spans to cross the double tracks.

I sincerely hope that at that point the bridges are made another 15' longer to cross a future bike lane that is supposed to run along the Carling-Bayview alignment, although with no Community Development Plan in place, we run the risk of the Chiarelli-era fiasco whereby the bridges were to be replaced but without provisions for bike and pedestrian lanes. That was a near tragedy averted only because the LRT project was cancelled. Will we do better if the project is reincarnated? Our chances are better if we had CDP in place, but as yet there is no sign of one.


  1. The Somerset bridge (and Gladstone) are already wide enough for double tracks. CP used to have two tracks in the corridor a decade ago all the way to a point south of Gladstone (the old switching box, covered in graffiti, is still visible beside the track on the east side); the second track was pulled out some time before the O-Train got running. You can see the second track, already getting overgrown, in this video shot in 1994:

    Advance to about the 5:00 mark and watch to the end. If you start at 4:30 you'll hear an interesting conversation about the future of City Centre and of what was to come years later...

    This video shows it from the other direction:
    The switch at Gladstone appears at 3:10 and the double track can be seen all the way to the end of the video when the Somerset bridge comes into view.

  2. David is of course correct. The Somerset viaduct span is long enough to bridge two tracks. No further work would be necessary for the LRT. However, a new or expanded section might be required for the multipurpose pathways. The Carling and Prince of Wales bridges span single tracks and the City planners call for double tracking the LRT line. If rebuilt, I hope we can get a bike route added too. But I am pessimistic /realistic.
    -eric darwin