A view of the top of the bridge, with crews applying a new layer on the foundation.

Working on multiple fronts: How Metrolinx makes the most out of weekend closures

Last weekend saw some temporary service adjustments for the Barrie Line and UP Express. But the pause – and patience by customers – produced some mighty work on the lines. It also led to a lesson in how past work was done, more than half a century ago.

It was one giant weekend to-do list – and all of it was checked off.

For Barrie Line and UP Express customers, last weekend (Sept 21-22) saw changes to routines as temporary service adjustments were made to allow for needed rail work. That toiling produced a lot of needed repairs and upgrades.

Work crews install new ties at night.
Hard at it – Track is installed with new concrete ties. Photo by George Wang.

Train service on the Barrie Line was replaced with buses during the weekend and the UP Express train ran every 30 minutes rather than the usual15 minutes – all to ensure GO and UP services remain reliable and safe.

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Crews worked around the clock to perform maintenance on tracks, signals and stations.

In fact, the Barrie line saw seven projects take place – some much needed work to ensure service can be expanded. From crossings to bridges to switches, the work began Friday overnight and continues throughout the weekend.

Among the most interesting work took place on a Toronto rail bridge over Rogers Rd., near St. Nicholas of Bari Catholic School.

A map shows the location of the bridge.
Where the bridge is positioned. The Toronto community is dynamic and work was close to houses and businesses, which meant the community had to be patient during the important, and needed, upgrades.

“The work went smoothly thanks to the hard work of the project team, the arrangement of work block, and the patience of the neighbours,” said George Wang, a Metrolinx bridges and structures specialist working on the project.

He added that the community around the bridge work helped move it along, including opening up the school parking lot for crews to use.

A night shot shows workmen sand blasting concrete on a bridge.
No lazy weekend – The bridge deck is sand-blasted to prepare for new waterproofing. Photo by Ken Lockett.

One hurdle was asbestos found in existing waterproofing material during repairs on the east-span of the Barrie Line bridge. This would have been common practice when the original work was done back in 1954, said Wang. The west-span was waterproofed in 1925, and no asbestos was found.

A view of the top of the bridge, with crews applying a new layer on the foundation.
Rain or shine – Crews waterproof the bridge deck. Note one bay has a tent set up for forecasted rain last weekend. Photo by George Wang.

After working out the best strategy to deal with the old material, Wang explained: “We decided to carry out the asbestos abatement over weekday nights instead of the weekend block to avoid delay Monday morning commuters.”

Crews work on black ballast mats.
Workers seam weld the joints of a ballast mat on the bridge. The mat protects the membrane and reduces noise and vibration of the trains when they cross. Photo by George Wang.

As for UP Express, service adjustments were in place to accommodate important maintenance work on the Union Station Rail Corridor. The work included switch panel and signal upgrades as part of its effort to maintain a state of good repair so that UP can continue to provide fast, reliable service every 15 minutes, seven days a week.

The work was vital considering the UP Express’ ridership continues to grow.

To reduce the inconvenience to customers, work is often scheduled on weekends. And crews often book multiple maintenance and construction activities along the lines to get as much work done as possible.

And you thought you got a lot of chores done on the weekend.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist.