I’m guessing that you probably weren’t thinking about culverts as you sipped your coffee on your commute through the construction this morning — probably not even if you passed right by one. But let me just take a moment to tell you why culverts are important – besides the obvious.
First of all, what is a culvert anyway? Well, I’m sure you’ve seen one by the side of the road, underneath a driveway, around creeks and rivers. A culvert is a tunnel or pipe of varying size, shape and material used to allow water to move easily from one side of an obstruction (like a road or railway) to the other side.
A culvert has three main functions: to allow for stream crossing; to manage and direct water runoff; and to allow natural wildlife crossing. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but where it gets interesting is the wildlife crossing.
Since culverts affect both animals and the environment, the Ministries of the Environment, Natural Resources and Transportation have set out specific standards for culverts. Those standards note that they must be constructed in such a way to allow any wildlife travelling through them to see light at the other side. And culverts must include material that mimic the natural landscape of the wildlife passing through it to encourage them to use the culvert for migration.
The typical lifespan of a culvert is somewhere between 10-20 years, depending on a number of factors. When water flows through a culvert frequently, as it does at eastern and western creeks in Newmarket, the culvert will naturally succumb to some erosion. With our plans to widen Davis Drive for the rapidway, we are extending the western creek culvert and removing and replacing the eastern creek culvert that was well beyond its lifespan.
It’s just one more component of an overall transformation towards vibrant urban centres, connected by a rapid transit network to help people get around.