The Challenge of Relocating Utilities

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!


celebrate culture with vivaNext

July 17th, 2014

celebrate culture with vivaNext

Experience culture from around the world right here in York Region!

This Sunday, July 20, Newmarket is hosting the fifth annual Around the World Multicultural Event to celebrate diversity in the community. From 12:00 pm to 8:30 pm, watch Newmarket Riverwalk Commons (200 Doug Duncan Drive – map) transform into a vibrant and unique cultural display. Indulge in a blend of delicious food and multicultural stage shows featuring music, dance, and theatre, all while learning about a variety of cultures.

Bring your family and friends to watch live performances on two different world stages, and interact with over 25 exhibitors eager to share food, crafts and information. Admission to the event is free and will take place rain or shine. In the case of inclement weather, all activities will be moved inside the Newmarket Community Centre & Lions Hall. For a full list of performance times and vendor types, see the main event page.

VivaNext is proud to be part of such a diverse community that values the culture, identity and opinions of its residents. We will be taking part in this year’s colourful festivities and we encourage you to join us. In between Zumba classes and First Nations’ teachings, be sure to stop by our booth to receive updates on the rapidway projects underway in your community. You can also try your luck on a scratch ‘n’ win card for the chance at some cool prizes.

Diversity is yet another reason why York Region is a great place to live, work, shop, and play so let’s celebrate!


hug a tree

July 15th, 2014

Maybe it’s time to rethink the age-old saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” According to a new report from TD Economics, Toronto’s dense, urban forests are providing more than $80-million of savings and environmental benefits every year. The report looks at Toronto’s urban forest of 10-million trees from an economic perspective, calculating the value each tree provides by saving energy, keeping rain and snow off the streets, and absorbing pollution. Even with maintenance costs factored in, the city’s trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 for every dollar spent.

Although the report focuses specifically on Toronto, the value in planting and maintaining trees can be attributed to any city in which you live. In fact, benefits can have more than just monetary value. Beautification, green space for recreation and importance to the residents are benefits that are difficult to calculate or define, yet still contribute to the landscape of a thriving community. The report also found that a mature tree canopy adds significantly to property values, adding yet another layer of economic benefit.

York Region already has plenty of recreational parks and green spaces that enhance the beauty of its towns and cities. The vivaNext projects will further enrich these communities by ensuring plant installation and growth well into the future. In Richmond Hill and Markham alone, approximately 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses will be planted along the Highway 7 East corridor and boulevards.  Our challenge with new plantings is to get them to thrive in the first 2 years, but luckily all new plants and trees come with just that – a 2 year warranty! Further planting and new greenery will also be installed on BRT corridors in Vaughan, Newmarket, and Richmond Hill, once construction is complete. Details about the different types of trees and the selection process can be found in a previous posting.

Our hope is that the growth and maturity of the greenery reflects the prosperous growth of York Region over time. Especially during these warm summer months, get out and appreciate the beauty and colour that surrounds you. Hug a tree!


steamrollers help roll out the transformation on Highway 7

July 10th, 2014

The transformation along Highway 7 in Markham continues and the excitement is building. While we are all happy with the results of the completed section of Highway 7 East, there’s still work to be done on the remainder from Highway 404 to Warden Avenue. We are working hard towards completion and opening of the remaining 5 stations by the end of the year and making the most of every sunny day.

Crews have been busy with road widening, boulevard and centre median work and are now paving.  When you start seeing the steamrollers, you know the job is getting close to being completed.  There are a few steps to rapidway paving work which include street painting of the crosswalks, and paving of the red asphalt for the rapidway.  Right now crews are working on base layer paving from Allstate Parkway to South Town Centre Boulevard, as well as line paving and traffic switching.

Sometimes you may wonder why we’ve returned to an area even though it seemed like we were finished. In fact, what you’re seeing is that we are coming back to complete work which has to be done in layers.  Everything has a sequence and a process to finish the job. Paving requires only a few hours, but new pavement can’t be travelled on right away. We schedule paving work carefully to try to avoid paving during the most congested times of the day.

To minimize overall duration and immediate impacts to motorists, residents and businesses, crews will be working overnight and on weekends – weather permitting. This enables work to be completed in an area or on a piece of the construction that has a higher impact so that crews can then move on to the next section. To ensure safety during paving, police officers will be onsite to direct traffic and assist pedestrians.

The good news to remember is once the final paving is finished, we will be that much closer to opening the next section of the rapidway along Highway 7.  Think sunshine!

building for the future: here comes the first Davis Drive vivastation

July 8th, 2014

vivastation with blue glass canopy


If you’ve been travelling along Davis Drive recently, you’ll notice an exciting development taking shape on the vivaNext rapidway construction project: the installation of the first of 6 vivastations is being installed at Parkside and Longford!

Here’s a quick overview of the vivastations, and how they’ll be installed.

Similar to the vivastations on Highway 7, the vivastations along Davis are going to be aesthetically pleasing and very functional. The curved viva blue glass that makes up the canopy is surprisingly rugged – this glass is curved, tempered and laminated for strength, which prevents it from breaking into sharp pieces if it is cracked or broken. Reliability was our first priority in sourcing the manufacturer: our glass panels are actually being made by the company that makes nearly half of the world’s windshield glass.

Although the canopy is made up of nearly 100 individual panes of glass, each will be connected to its neighbour by small fasteners, referred to as “spiders” – so visually, the glass will look like it’s all one piece.

Supporting the glass underneath is a three-piece structure made of Canadian-fabricated steel, constructed just outside of Paris, Ontario. With durability in mind, the steel will be finished with a high-quality automotive-grade paint to minimize long-term maintenance costs.

Before the station components are delivered, a concrete platform is poured and set, and the connections built into the platform are prepared. Then the canopy’s three steel structural sections are brought in on a wide-load tractor trailer [it’s quite the site to see them delivered!]. When they’re installed they are lifted into place. It takes about a week to align the sections perfectly and do some other prep work, in advance of the glass being delivered and installed. Lessons learned from Hwy 7 have helped us find ways to modify the work to make the canopies easier and more efficient to install.

Because minimizing traffic impacts as much as we can along Davis is so important, our team has focused on finding strategies to install these huge canopies in a very small space with minimal lane closures.

Beyond providing rapid transit users with a comfortable and convenient experience, our vivastations are going to add a unique look and feel to Davis Drive which helps set the stage for future development. We look forward to celebrating this and other milestones as the work progresses!


School’s done – summertime fun begins

July 3rd, 2014

School's done - summer time fun begins

Summer is an exciting and fun time for us on the vivaNext project. Warmer temperatures and longer days allow construction of our rapidway projects to get in high gear so they can be completed as quickly as possible. The official start of summer also means the end of the school year.

After the long cold winter that we had, the end of the school year is a chance for kids to get out and play by trading in their school bags and notebooks for swim suits, bikes and camping gear.

Warmer weather and no school mean kids and families are spending more time outside and on our streets. With that in mind, we would like to remind motorists to drive more carefully and with extra caution. It is up to us as drivers to make sure our kids stay safe and remember that kids often run out into the street without looking.

VivaNext wants you and your families to stay safe. We’ve all seen or maybe even done it – whether it’s rushing through a red light or a stop sign to save few extra minutes, forgetting to use traffic signals, overlooking construction detours and speed signs, or not using a hands-free cell phone device. With the heat, hustle and bustle of our busy schedules or fatigue, it’s often easy for drivers to forget or ignore the rules of the road.

During summer when school’s out, it’s even more important to re-think our habits behind the wheel. So, please slow down through construction zones and remember to be a careful driver by looking out for little ones, or better yet, leave the driving to our bus drivers and hop on viva for a more relaxed travel experience.

From our vivaNext family to yours, we wish you a safe and happy summer!


summer – time fun!

July 1st, 2014

summer - time for fun and games


Happy Canada Day everyone!

It’s summer, and most people are looking forward to enjoying the warm weather, taking time to make new memories, and maybe doing some travelling. A picture is just a moment frozen in time, but can tell a great story. If you’re travelling on YRT\Viva this summer, we’d like you to share your picture-stories with us by posting snapshots on Instagram of you and your friends enjoying a YRT\Viva moment in time around York Region. There are great shops and destinations around town and we know many of you are using transit to get there, so we encourage you to share those moments with us. We will be running a photo contest from July 1 to September 1, after which we’ll award a “Best Photo” prize – see the photo contest details.

As part of our summer moments in time contest, we wanted to also offer you a break for fun too. So if you like puzzles and games, try out your skills with our website game, and compete for the highest score in each level to win a prize!

We know everyone isn’t a photographer or a gamer, but if you enter your contact details in the photo contest or the website game, we’ll also add your name to a random draw on September 3, just for participating and sharing a moment of your time with us!

And last but certainly not least, be sure to find the vivaNext team in the community this summer, so you can talk to us about what’s happening with the projects. The construction along the corridors is in full swing; but it is nice to take a break for a moment in time…happy summer everyone, get out and enjoy.


Transit focused Markham Centre picked for York U expansion

June 26th, 2014

Transit focused Markham Centre picked for York U expansion

York University, a globally recognized research centre, recently announced that it had chosen Markham Centre as the preferred location in its bid to build a new satellite campus in York Region. York Region is one of Ontario’s fastest-growing major urban areas, and with a current population of more than 1.1 million, is the only municipality of its size in North America with no university campus.

The City of Markham was selected based on its ability to demonstrate alignment with 10 core principals including, having a campus within an urban centre, easily accessible across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, transit oriented development, use of public infrastructure and strong local partners.

This achievement shows how York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, of which vivaNext is a key part, is already resulting in important economic development benefits for our region. It’s more proof that its long term, visionary planning framework will channel new jobs, housing and shopping within the newly urbanized centre in Markham.

As Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said in their news release, one of the reasons the Markham Centre location was chosen, in addition to all its “incredible amenities,” is that Markham has a reputation for having bold initiatives. The Mayor also pointed to the city’s efforts in attracting major businesses such as Enbridge, Honda and Aviva as well as attracting the Pan Am games to the city.

The timing of York University’s announcement could not have been better. Transit, parkland and local secondary plans are currently underway. The city can fully integrate a university within the new downtown urban fabric.

York Region’s vivaNext rapidway project along Highway 7 is in the last final stages with bus lanes set to open by the end of the year. Additional Bus Rapid Transit is planned for Markham Centre along Enterprise Drive to Unionville Go Terminal, scheduled to be completed in 2019, making this area truly the model of live, work, shop, play and now get educated!


a big thank you

June 24th, 2014

June 21 Davis Drive construction tours

This past Saturday, June 21st, vivaNext held construction tours and updates on the progress of the bus rapidway project in Newmarket. A combined 200 people came out between our 130 Davis Drive location and Main Street & Davis location for the day’s activities. “Construction Guy” and “Explorer Girl” welcomed families and residents as they engaged in interactive walking tours, received project updates, and enjoyed free ice cream.

Congratulations to the lucky winners of our ShopDavis prize packs, which featured goodies and services purchased from the businesses and restaurants along the corridor. The prize packs cover themes from Food & Drink  to Tech & Spa and really highlight the diversity of businesses that Davis Drive has to offer. Thank you for continuing to stop, shop and dine on Davis during the busy construction season. A complete list of winners and the businesses featured in the prize packs can be found on our website.

If you weren’t able to attend the event, all of the materials that were shared are available on our Past Meetings page, so you can read up on the latest information that you may have missed. You can also subscribe to project updates.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone who attended the event. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, and we appreciate everyone’s support and interest. Our goal is to continue to keep you informed about the transformation of Davis Drive. It was great to speak with residents about the future of the rapidway project, and we hope to see you at similar events in the future!



long, cold winter leading to plant woes

June 19th, 2014

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

This past winter’s sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfalls, driving winds and ice storm will go down as one of the longest and harshest on record. The effects of the ice storm are still being felt here in York Region, as we start to take stock of our plants, trees and shrubbery this spring.

In one of our earlier blogs, we talked about the trees, perennials and grasses that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along the Highway 7 rapidway between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard. Like you, we have noticed that some of the perennials and grasses have not come back this spring.

All the trees, perennials and shrubbery on Highway 7 are under a two year warranty and we are monitoring their growth to see if they need to be replaced or will come back throughout the spring and summer months.

We are hopeful that the chilly winter will result in better soil, leading to healthier gardens. Soil science shows that the cold weather creates pores in the soil, which naturally aerates plants. The colder it gets, the deeper frost penetrates. When the frost melts, it leaves pockets in the soil. Winter damage is always factored into gardening in Canada, as we assess our plants every spring and replace the ones that didn’t survive.

With all this in mind, vivaNext is committed to maintaining our new landscaping which will make Highway 7 much more attractive, pleasant and welcoming for everyone.