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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whitby Maintenance Facility: A Clearer Picture

Last night, I attended an open house explaining the South Blair Street grade separation project.  I enjoyed seeing the updated plans for the new underpass and being able to discuss the project timeline with representatives from GO.

The grade separation is part of the much larger East Region Rail Maintenance Facility project which will see a large maintenance facility built for GO Transit in Whitby, allowing for maintenance east of Toronto, rather than all equipment having to deadhead to the Willowbrook Yard in Mimico.  Although the open house wasn't about the new Facility, the dates gave a clearer picture of how work will progress.

The affected area

The grade separation project will begin in late 2013 and is divided into several stages:
  1. The two-track GO sub will be temporarily routed to the north of the existing crossing.
  2. The northern section of the underpass will be built in its place.
  3. The two-track (and yard lead) CN Kingston sub will be temporarily rerouted on top of the completed northern section.
  4. The southern section of the underpass will be built in its place.
  5. The five tracks will be returned to their original routing, now on top of the underpass.
The construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.  South Blair Street between Victoria Street and Watson Street will be closed throughout the project and traffic will be rerouted on Watson Street or Water Street.

With South Blair Street reopened (now with four lanes and sidewalks), the next stage of the project is to close the Hopkins Street overpass to the Gerdau and Hanson plants and demolish the bridge as the new Maintenance Facility will swallow up Hopkins Street and the overpass approach.  Access will be provided by a new road running east from South Blair Street into the plants.

Whitby's rail infrastructure was long overdue for a major upgrade.  For railfans, this project means losing such beloved locations as the South Blair crossing next year and the very popular Hopkins Street bridge in 2015.  However, this was inevitable as the level crossing was an anomaly limiting both road traffic and rail operations and the bridge was excessive as it only served two industries.  There will be other locations, and the construction of the new Maintenance Facility will provide an interesting last chapter for trainspotting at these sites.

GO Transit has also set up a dedicated email for any questions about the project.  You can contact them directly at: ERMF@gotransit.com

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