New water mains and sewer lines.

As the picture on the right shows, our water and sewer lines were in bad shape. Many of the city’s lines are 80 years old, ours included. One result (in addition to lost water and sewage leaks) is the daily radio traffic report with their lists of pipe breaks. In fact, during the latter part of the Roncesvalles work Westminster Avenue was blocked for a day because an old clay sewer pipe collapsed in the middle of the street.

We’re all familiar with the piles of rubble and the large noisy machines we endured for months. Sewer pipes are buried nearly 4 meters below the service, and the water mains (which run under the west sidewalk) are nearly 2 meters down. So, the centre of the street and the west sidewalk had to be removed, and the required ditches dug. Everything, from concrete, asphalt, old streetcar tracks and then the old sewer and water lines had to be taken out, the last two in carefully planned phases.

Of course, this was not a mere matter of digging with excavators and shovels. There are networks of gas pipes and telephone and TV cable lines “down there.” In theory, these were mapped out with painted marks and lines as well as official drawing, but time, sand, and even clay shifts. Even so, remarkably few lines were broken.

Fortunately, most of the telephone lines are encased in a concrete “pipe” along the east side of Roncesvalles, though some of the TV Cable lines are not encased.

Many labourers spent many hours in ditches to renew our services.

The Roncesvalles Village Water and Sewer Renewal slide show includes captions explain the various tasks.

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TTC tracks and overhead cables

Installing the new streetcar tracks and overhead cables required very specialized skills, so the work was done by the appropriate TTC crews (trackwork and cablework).

They were fortunate in that they did not have to dig out the old material. They did  have to work in coordination with the pavement contractor. The trackwork required three concrete pourings: the base on which the steel cross-ties were laid, the middle level that anchored those cross-ties, and then the street-level layer. The last was poured after the final rail alignments, of course.

Cross-ties are formed with the rail lockings in place, so the ties had to be placed by plan, of course, but adjusted the actual street conditions. You may see one slide where the tracks barely miss a sewer access. The tracks also had to be placed to account for the new bumpout transit stops. And, of course, each pair of rails had to be kept a specified distance from the other, hence, the photo showing the crew moving a pair of rails in front of Home Hardware.

The Howard Park/Roncesvalles intersection required midnight shift work because the “diamond” (the actual four-way rail intersection was one piece, as were each of the switch tracks (“points”). Each adjoining rail had to be cut and welded in place.

Each rail joint was welded, unlike the old system in which rail sections were bolted. no more “clunk-clunk” when the wheels cross rail joints.

The cables, too, required careful placement, as the actual bare wire must be centered between its pair of rails. The wires also have to move along with the tension from the car, but within limits. Four trucks of crews worked each night, leapfrogging while maintaining proper tension and alignment.

The slide show of track work and the slide show of cable work include some fairly dramatic night pictures as well as some of the cool machines they used for the heavy work.

New sidewalks and street paving

After the street and tracks were done, the complicated task of forming the new sidewalks began. The old double-level walks between Grenadier and Constance became a standard single level one. The new bumpouts with the streetcar and bicycle ramps were installed. Block by block, crews leveled and packed the soil, built the wooden forms, and then poured and finished the concrete on the west side and installed the paving blocks on the east side. In addition they placed the special rubber Eco-Flex tiles around the tree at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

Curbs were formed with a large specialized machine. Heavy machines and teams of guys on the ground installed the tree planting network on the east side. The sidewalk actually sits on risers to prevent compaction of the soil, much to the relief of the new trees.

A moving line of  specialized vehicles placed the asphalt between the tracks and the sidewalks.

The various tasks can be viewed in my slide show.

Community Tree Planting 2011

On May 14, 2011, it was a bright spring morning when 20+ volunteers, including our local Councillor – Gord Perks – came out to dig holes and plant trees on the west side of Roncesvalles.

See slide show of our community’s tree planting, courtesy of local photographer Tom Kane.

Friends pitched in to plant an oak tree at 106 Roncesvalles Avenue.

This group of 11 year-olds will grow up to see a mighty oak become part of the Roncesvalles Avenue tree canopy, thanks to their planting efforts. It was a memorable way way to celebrated their friend’s birthday. Photo Credit: Tom Kane