Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

recognizing great transit

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

recognizing great transit

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog, huge infrastructure projects involve the cooperation and organization of many parts. Fast, reliable transit systems are not built overnight. Years of design and planning go into a project before construction even begins. You might feel like construction in the vivaNext corridors is never-ending, but remember that these are important transit investments that, in the long term, will drive positive change in our communities.

The plan to promote awareness in the City of Markham was initiated back in the fall of 2001 with the “Great Transportation Debate,” which drew attention to the need for a rapid transit system in York Region. Fast-forward 13 years later to today, where the first section of rapidway is open on Highway 7 and the rest of the ambitious vivaNext projects are well underway.

World renowned environmentalist David Suzuki mentioned our project in a recent article, calling it an “impressive BRT network with rapid transit corridors for a fleet of modern and comfortable fast buses.” He pins the success of the world’s leading cities like New York on government investments in transportation solutions, from light rail and subways to bus rapid transit networks, so it’s exciting to know that cities in York Region are heading in this direction.

VivaNext’s success has been recognized by others as well: earlier this year it was awarded Project of the Year by the Ontario Public Works Association, for a transportation project valued greater than $50 million. The honour is granted to an organization that promotes excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the coordination between managing agency, the consultant, architect, engineer, and the contractor.

Also, the York Region Chapter of the Professional Engineers of Ontario chose vivaNext as Engineering Project of the Year. It’s gratifying to have our commitment to excellence and dedication to the vision for York Region recognized by top industry professionals.

With summer construction season well underway, we thank you for your patience as these “impressive” infrastructure projects get built.

 

choosing plants for colour, form and structure

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

If you’ve ever tried to fit a load of plants from a garden centre trolley into the back of your car, you’ll know that 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses is a lot of plant material.

That’s the number of individual plants that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along our Highway 7 rapidways between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard, from now until the end of June.

As we’ve described in earlier postings, the plant selections were made carefully, and reflect expertise from our Landscape Architects and York Region’s own Forestry Department.  Plants in the planters need to be hardy and strong to be able to withstand the tough conditions imposed by their surroundings.  Not only do they need to be generally low maintenance, but being so near traffic means they have to survive wind, drought and salt-spray in the winter.

Another key requirement is that trees under hydro lines need to be naturally compact so that they don’t conflict with the lines overhead and can grow to their full potential without needing to be pruned.

So the final list was carefully developed with all these requirements in mind, and includes a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses.  Trees include Kentucky Coffee tree, Ivory Silk Tree Lilac, and Ohio Buckeye, all of which are well regarded as decorative, long-lived trees.

Tree plantings will also include Skyline Honey Locust and Accolade Elm, both of which are prized as street trees for their vigorous growth and adaptability to tough growing conditions (and in the case of the latter, resistance to Elm disease).  Rounding out the tree selections, the Autumn Blaze Maple and Bradford Pear will provide colour interest and welcome shade.

Along the medians and in the boulevard planters, there is a wide range of grasses, shrubs and perennials which will provide form and colour throughout the year.  Most are familiar to home gardeners, such as varieties of red twig dogwood, shrub roses and Euonymus.  Mugho Pines and various forms of juniper will offer structure to our planters in the winter.  And grasses, daylilies and coneflowers will provide flower interest in the summer.

With all these plants the boulevards and vivastation platforms will be more appealing to pedestrians and transit riders, who will appreciate the shade and colour up close.  But even from a distance, the addition of new landscaping will make Highway 7 much more attractive and pleasant for everyone passing through, and will add to the feeling that this increasingly urbanized corridor welcomes all users.

 

planning to get permission

Friday, May 9th, 2014

If you’ve ever done a major renovation on your home, you’ll know about all the permits and approvals that are needed before, during and after construction. So it will come as no surprise that in the world of infrastructure construction, obtaining the necessary approvals is a large and important piece of our work.

What makes obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for vivaNext a complicated task is the sheer number of elements that our project affects, involving a corresponding number of approving bodies and organizations. Every element that we touch or change plays an important role in our shared infrastructure, and is part of a larger, well planned system. So those checks are in place to ensure that construction changes will have no negative impact on the larger system of critical public infrastructure, which includes everything from storm sewers, hydro lines and gas mains to watercourses, railway crossings and highway exit ramps. It’s vital that none of those components and their proper functioning is affected by the implementation of the project.

So what are some of those permits and approvals? At a high level, our general design went through the comprehensive study and approval process of an Environmental Assessment long before detailed design even began. At a more practical level, there are all the obvious ones that are similar to what you’d need if you were building a new addition to your house. VivaNext stations and associated structures (like the elevator/stair towers on Highway 7 at Bayview Avenue) all need building permits from the local Municipality before construction starts. There are also ongoing approvals at intervals during construction such as structural, drainage and electrical inspections.

But there are more complex approvals and permits that are less obvious, yet are concerned with critical components, and getting signoff frequently requires a significant degree of planning and analysis. For example, the rapidways on Highway 7 are close to Highway 400, Highway 404 and 407 ETR, which are Provincial controlled access highways. Any roadway and intersection changes we may require within 400 metres of a controlled access highway need to be approved by the Ministry of Transportation. The rationale for this is to ensure that nothing in the design will result in drivers exiting the freeways being blocked by congestion, which in turn could interfere with traffic flow on the freeway itself.

For similar safety reasons, any roadway changes near railway crossings (both bridge crossings and level crossings) need to be approved by the railway companies. And the timing of traffic lights at intersections near level crossing also need to be carefully planned for and approved, so that traffic doesn’t get stopped on the railway during a red light.

Work near a watercourse or sensitive environmental feature requires various approvals in advance of any changes being made and to guide how work will be done. Environmental approvals and permits may require signoff from multiple bodies including the Ministry of Natural Resources, the local Conservation Authority – and depending on the significance of the watercourse, even the Federal Department of Fisheries or the Department of Transport. Working near cultural features, such as designated heritage buildings, cemeteries or potential archaeological sites, also requires considerable advance study and approval from the Ministry of Culture.

Getting permits and approvals is time-consuming but a necessary part of the project, and one that guides the work from the earliest stages of the project, until the final shovels of mulch are placed around new plantings along the boulevards. These processes ensure that every aspect of vivaNext is great for our community, both above and below the ground!

vivaNext goes to school

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Recent stories in our local media have described the exciting proposal put forward to York University and Seneca College to locate a satellite campus in York Region. Newmarket/Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Markham all had strong submissions that each would offer all manner of benefits to York Region.  On Friday, April 24 they short listed the possible sites to include: Richmond Hill, Vaughan, and Markham.

The fact that these proposals advanced is proof of the increasing urbanization of York Region, especially in its emerging centres in Newmarket, Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.  This increasing urbanization is good news in so many ways, including for young people who would like the option to attend post-secondary school closer to home.

VivaNext is a key part of bringing that urbanization to life.  By extending rapid transit routes into these key areas, a potential new university or college campus would more easily be able to attract faculty and staff as well as new students.  Having rapid transit on its doorstep is just one of the many reasons why these campus bids are so strong.

The long-term vision for York Region is to give people more choices, whether it’s where they live, work, shop or dine out – or go to school.  We’re seeing that vision come to life, block by block, with new developments taking shape all along the rapid transit routes and in the new centres.  And each new development, whether it’s residential, employment or retail, attracts even more economic growth. The new centres are already becoming increasingly important destinations, just as York Region had planned.

VivaNext is proud to be a key part of these plans. We’ll look forward to hearing the news later this spring where the future home of a college or university campus will be located.  And then, it will be our great pleasure to get those students and their teachers to class on time!

rapid transit is coming to yonge street

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The next generation of rapid transit is coming to Yonge Street. We’re excited to announce that York RapidLINK Constructors have been awarded the $260.5 million design build contract for the York Viva Bus Rapid Transit [vivaNext] rapidways along Yonge Street in the Towns of Richmond Hill and Newmarket.

The project involves widening Yonge Street within Richmond Hill and Newmarket to accommodate approximately nine kilometres of dedicated rapidway lanes for viva rapid transit vehicles in the centre of the road as well as 10 new vivastations.

In Richmond Hill, the Yonge Street rapidway will extend 6.5 kilometres from Highway 7 to 19th Avenue/Gamble Road, including seven new vivastations. In the heritage area north of Major Mackenzie Drive, viva will continue to drive in mixed traffic as it does today.

In Newmarket, the rapidway will extend 2.4 kilometres on Yonge Street from just south of Mulock Drive to Davis Drive, and will include three new vivastations. Construction is expected to begin later this year, and be completed by the end of 2018.

This is an important project that will benefit the local economy for generations and will support the significant development and growth of these communities by reducing congestion and providing commuters with a better way to get around.

To learn more about the Yonge Street project and sign up for project updates, visit vivanext.com.

 

earth hour 2014 – celebrating our commitment to the planet

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Nelson Mandela – “Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet”

Earth Hour is an annual global event that is held on the last Saturday of each March to raise awareness of climate change, and to encourage each of us to make choices that will lessen our impact on the environment. This remarkable initiative first began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 with 2.2 million Sydneysiders [A native or inhabitant of Sydney, Australia] and 2,100 businesses taking part. To date it has grown to over 6950 cities and 152 countries worldwide.  In 2012 Vancouver was recognized as the first Global Earth Hour Capital. The City of Vancouver has set green targets of being a global leader on climate-smart urban development. Vancouver aims to have all newly constructed buildings be carbon neutral in their operations by 2020.

In reflecting on the true meaning of Earth Hour it raises the question – why wait until March 29 at 8:30pm to make a difference in saving energy or working to reduce climate change? Why not make small changes throughout the year? Small changes like carpooling or taking public transit will help reduce vehicle emissions and pollution. We are seeing these everyday changes right here in York Region with a 38% increase in ridership and over 22.7 million riders on YRT\Viva since 2005.  With the section of the rapidway that is open on Highway 7, you can hop aboard a Viva bus and cut your commute time by up to 40% during the rush hour commute.

Once vivaNext rapidway construction is completed, the sustainable transformation of this urban corridor will support growth, and reduce congestion to help make York Region an even more inviting place to live, work, shop and play. These benefits extend well beyond York Region. For example, the rapidways will also play an important role in a seamless transit system across the GTHA, helping to reduce traffic congestion, increase productivity and provide sustainable alternatives to car use, which help reduce our environmental impacts.

If we all tried, even for one day, to reduce our environmental footprint it would be a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to reducing climate change.  Don’t forget to power down this Earth Hour, our planet will thank you.

 

spring is in the air

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

John Steinbeck – “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Such words have never been truer than this past winter.  The Greater Toronto Area recorded the coldest winter in 20 years; there have been at least 10 days of temperature that dipped below -20 C, which hasn’t happened in seven years and this has been the longest winter on record in over 100 years! With the official arrival of spring, vivaNext is preparing to ramp up our construction and road work.

Last year, we had some great milestones with the opening of 3.9 kilometres of rapidway on Highway 7 from Bayview Avenue to Highway 404. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] project celebrated a major milestone at the end of last year, with the tunnel boring machines [TBMs] “Yorkie” and “Torkie” finished their tunneling journey north to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] station. Ongoing utility relocation on Highway 7 West, as well as CN Bridge work.  On Davis Drive, nearly all retaining walls have been constructed, the eastern creek culvert has been replaced and extended, and the majority of hydro poles have been relocated. Road widening and base-layer paving has started, while reconstruction of Keith Bridge and the extension of the western creek bridge on the north side continue.

Building on the progress and advancing the BRT project, we’ll continue to relocate utilities, construct retaining walls, widen roads and pave along the different corridors, not to mention finishing the new viva stations on Highway 7 in Markham.  With the longer days and bright sunshine, comes a lot more activity in the construction zones so please drive carefully and be alert to workers in the area. We know construction can be daunting and we thank you for your patience and understanding. Please drive with care and give yourself extra time to get to your destination safely.

To find out what is happening this spring, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also sign up for email notices at vivanext.com to keep you updated on the construction underway in your area.

 

taking care near our urban watercourses

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

If you’ve been at the corner of Jane Street and Highway 7 in Vaughan recently, you’ll have seen the work underway to build a 10 metre long retaining wall near where the Black Creek flows through a large culvert under the roadway.

We’re building the retaining wall to support the newly widened roadway. Ensuring that our project does not negatively affect any of the watercourses adjacent to or crossing our rapidway segments is a top priority for vivaNext, and we have made commitments through the Environmental Assessment phase of the project for how we will carry out that work to ensure there are no harmful effects.  In keeping with this commitment, we need to have the major work on the retaining wall finished this spring before April 1, completing the in-water work before the closing of the pre-established work window.

This “work window” is set by the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, and is set out in timing guidelines that are applied to construction projects near or in watercourses that are home to any species of fish.  These timing guidelines are intended to protect fish from any impact from construction work being done in or around water, during the critical life stages for fish including spawning migrations, egg incubation and fry emergence.

Provincial guidelines are organized by region as well as by fish species within those regions.  Fish can be divided into those that spawn in cold water (i.e. in the spring) and those that spawn in warm water (i.e. in the fall), with the species in the Black Creek being in the cold-water group.  For that reason, the construction permits require that any work we do in or near the Black Creek be done outside of the period from April 1 to June 30, to ensure that the project doesn’t interfere with their spawning.

Once the work window closes April 1, we will not do any work in or around the water until the beginning of July.  So we go to great lengths to ensure the work on the Black Creek retaining wall is finished by the end of March, and that we won’t need to do any other activities involving in-water work until the summer.

Our commitment to ensuring our work has no adverse effects on the environment goes well beyond avoiding any in-water work at sensitive times.  On all our segments, we work closely with the local conservation authorities, who approve the final designs before we get their permission to work.  Our mutual goal is to ensure the project, at a minimum, avoids any harmful impacts, and in many cases actively enhances the natural environment. We also use various construction strategies to mitigate any potential impacts while we’re working, such as installing cofferdams from sheet piles or sand bags around our work zones within watercourses.   By using these methods, we’re able to work “in-the-dry”, thereby avoiding any risks to the watercourse and its fish, even if the in-water work window has closed.

We’re happy to know that the vivaNext project is going to ultimately enhance our shared environment for people and the other creatures that live in York.  So taking great care as we work near our creeks and rivers is just one example of how we’re committed to protecting and enhancing our natural surroundings, even in a fully-urbanized area like Highway 7 and Jane Street.

Please remember as the temperature heats up during spring thaw, water ways and creeks can been extremely dangerous, remember to keep a safe distance.

 

building up the centres and corridors

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The most obvious benefit that vivaNext will provide, and one that is already taking shape on Highway 7, is the convenient rapid transit system that we’re constructing across York Region.  But as I’ve described in many previous posts, vivaNext is much more than a transit project; it’s also a key part of the long-term strategy being used by York Region to help our Region respond to and manage growth.  Central to that strategy is the overall vision of Centres and Corridors, which will help concentrate future growth in higher-density, mixed use developments clustered in four new urban nodes, one each in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.  Here’s a summary of how this strategy will transform our Region and help it manage growth.

Population increase is happening across the Region, and brings many advantages.  More people means the Region can attract and support new choices in housing, employment, shopping, entertainment, dining and recreation. But as the Region grows, more people also means more traffic, more congestion, and more crowding.  So the strategy that York Region has developed, in collaboration with both the Province and the local municipalities, is to channel much of that growth into newly developed communities clustered in new urban centres along Highway 7 and in Newmarket.  With this strategy, existing neighbourhoods will be protected, along with the way of life that attracted many people to the Region in the first place.

The new communities in the Regional Centres will be mixed use, meaning they will offer residential, employment and recreational options – including a proportion of affordable housing choices. Once these new downtowns are fully established, people will be able to work, live and play without needing to get in a car, enjoying choices for housing, jobs, shopping and dining, all within walking distance.

Linking these emerging downtowns will be major transportation corridors along Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive, featuring our new vivaNext bus rapid transit rapidways and the Spadina subway extension (and once funding is secured, the Yonge Subway extension).  With convenient access between these new urban neighbourhoods and our expanding rapid transit network, people will be able to travel across the Region and into the rest of the GTA without needing a car, making the Centres an attractive option for people looking for an urban lifestyle.

Obviously, completing York Region’s new downtowns isn’t going to happen overnight, but new developments are already transforming the look and feel along Highway 7, up Yonge Street and across Davis Drive.  And as these new urban areas take shape, we’re working hard to get the transit part of the equation built, one rapidway station at a time – to provide a convenient, fast way for everyone in York Region to get around using transit.

 

join the discussions in vaughan?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Congestion in the GTHA is at an all-time high, with an additional 2.5 million people and one million more cars expected in the next 20 years, the problems will only get worse. We can no longer postpone building the kind of transit network that offers residents and commuters better transportation choices, eases congestion, connects them with jobs and travelling efficiently in all directions.

New transit lines connect most neighbourhoods and business districts, putting commuters within a short walk of rapid transit.  The vivaNext project is a part of this overreaching transit network that will connect not only local but regional service once completed.

York Region Transit [YRT] conventional routes cater to local communities in all York Region municipalities and also include GO Shuttles and Express services.  These routes stop frequently at the curbside of the road. Viva connects Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Aurora and Newmarket and also links York Region with Toronto and its subway system, GO Transit and the Region of Peel. It operates along major corridors much like an above-ground subway, for faster service.  Once Viva service is running in its own rapidway, service will be even faster.

Transit planning takes time and includes: consultation with the users, route planning, bus scheduling and stop identification.

This year, YRT is holding stakeholder engagement meetings to discuss transit routes and overall service to prepare for the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] in the City of Vaughan. The Subway is scheduled to open in 2016 and we want to be ready.

YRT\Viva is looking for your input at their public information meetings.   We encourage you to come out to these events and learn how transit development will affect you in your daily commute and provide your input in what service and routes you want.

The vivaNext team will be there also, so join us for an in-depth look at different elements of vivaNext projects, plans, designs and ongoing activities or visit vivanext.com.