Major water main work may only make minor disruption

By Josh Bailie –

The New Year will bring optimistic resolutions, midnight kisses, and the commencement of a two-year, $80-million construction project to replace a 70-year-old water main under D’Arcy, Elm and Gerrard streets.

Planned to start in January, six shaft sites for “tunneling” will gradually be opened and closed along a four-kilometre route from Spadina Ave. to River St. Tunneling—an underground process that carts materials back and forth on a small train car—is required to effect the necessary water main repairs with minimal disruption.

“A water main of this age can easily leak or break due to material deterioration, repeated vibration caused by traffic or cold weather,” said Tony Pagnanelli, the city’s director of technical services, “which can result in costly emergency repairs as well as disruptions to the local community and vehicular traffic.”

The new water main will be thicker, made of steel and encased in concrete. It is designed to maintain safety and reliability as well as increase water capacity.

An additional segment will also be installed on Beverly St. from College to D’arcy streets via open-cut construction, which carves rectangular trenches into the ground from street level.

Nearly a quarter of the $80 million tab is covered by the city while York Region funds the rest, as per a cost-sharing agreement.

Once the project is complete, a small water main will be added between Dundas and Mark streets on River St. This open-cut construction is expected to take place in 2012 or 2013.

Pagnanelli said the lifespan of a cast iron water mains varies. Some built almost 100 years ago still gush water through the veins of the city.

Here’s what you need to know for the next two years if you live, work or play in the area.

Tunneling shaft sites will be at Spadina Ave. and D’Arcy St., D’Arcy and McCaul streets, Elm and Elizabeth streets, the southeast corner of Allan Gardens, River and Gerrard streets, and River and Mark streets.

These six sites, each with its own large safety fences or hoarding, will obstruct sightlines and restrict some driving lanes. There will be appropriate signage once the shaft sites are erected.

Also at these sites, the usual clatter of construction will add some decibels to the city soundtrack. There may be upheavals of dust from trucks and excavation equipment.

Each site will be up for six months as workers move along the route, with the exception of Allan Gardens, which will have a shaft site for the full two years of work.

Details are scant on how the park’s southeast corner (close to Gerrard and Sherbourne streets) will specifically be affected. Pagnanelli said staff are still working to determine the best approach.

Water supply and access to homes and businesses should be unchanged. Emergency contacts and construction schedules will be sent to nearby properties when construction nears.

Tunneling was actually chosen by the city over open-cut method to avoid traffic interruptions and road closures—even though tunneling is three times as expensive. Pagnanelli explained tunneling wouldn’t disrupt access to the hospital district between McCaul and Elizabeth streets nor to the TTC on Gerrard from Elizabeth to River streets.