Diamond in the rough – An important Toronto section of the Barrie GO rail line is about to see major change, and officials are holding a meeting to let you in on details

Metrolinx is planning a public information session tonight (Nov. 20) to dig into plans for the Davenport Diamond intersection – an important but imperfect route for train traffic through a well-populated area of the city.

This diamond has a flaw that’s about to be fixed.

The Davenport Diamond is an important intersection where the Barrie GO corridor meets the CP rail tracks. It’s one of the busiest train intersections in North America, and one of the last of its kind, high-traffic rail crossings in Toronto.

Think of it as a four-way intersection in any community, with signals directing trains as traffic lights would dictate the ebb and flow of cars.

Image shows two rail tracks, crossing one another.

The tracks at the Davenport Diamond. The lines are about to see major changes. (Metrolinx photo)

But as Metrolinx connects communities with two-way, all-day GO service, it means more trains will be passing through, creating increased congestion.

The Davenport Diamond Grade Separation Project is tackling this issue through the construction of an elevated twin-track guideway between approximately Bloor Street and Davenport Road, west of Lansdowne Avenue, eliminating at-grade crossings. That includes a busy CP Rail intersection near Dupont Street.

It’s a technically challenging project, as it sits in a dense urban location.

That means the community is impacted, and residents and business owners need to understand the steps being taken to correct the Diamond. So Metrolinx is holding a public information session tonight (Nov. 20) to introduce the builder, set expectations around construction impacts, and continue the conversation with neighbours.

The drop-in session will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Toronto’s Casa de Madeira,1621 Dupont Street.

“Metrolinx is committed to building a transportation network that supports a higher quality of life – getting riders where they need to go, faster and easier,” says Waleed Mikhaiel, Metrolinx’s project manager for the guideway contract.

“The Davenport Diamond project will significantly improve service on the Barrie GO line, creating quicker travel times for GO commuters and better access to all rail travel throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The project will also alleviate vehicular congestion and create a pedestrian path network with greater connectivity.”

Preparation and completion of construction is anticipated to take three-and-a-half years.

Earlier this year, Graham Commuter Rail Solutions were announced as the team that will design and build the elevated twin-track guideway project.

That construction will have an impact on the community since work on the guideway will take place in an active corridor. The builder will take steps to minimize the effects of construction where possible, officials say, while still adhering to the project schedule.

“Metrolinx engaged Graham early on in the design process, giving us the opportunity to provide input to minimize the impact of construction on the community, including limiting noise and vibration, minimal light pollution during nightwork and providing advance notice of these impacts,” says Robert Rabie, Graham’s vice president of Infrastructure.

The image shows the inside of the cab of a GO train, looking outside.

As Metrolinx delivers increased service by GO trains, the extra traffic only adds to the woes on the Davenport Diamond. Photo by Daniel Santos, Training Supervisor, Bombardier Transportation.

Metrolinx has looked for feedback from the community to create the greenway underneath this raised guideway – a new public space for the neighbourhood.

The greenway will be procured separately. Metrolinx believes as a shared public space, residents and neighbours should have a say in what it looks like. That’s why Metrolinx will be asking the Davenport Community Advisory Committee to reconvene in the first quarter of 2020, so they can work together on nailing down the public realm design.

“De-coupling the greenway public realm portion of the project as a second phase will give the community greater control over the design and subsequent operations and maintenance of the public realm once it is complete,” says Wayne Moss, Metrolinx’s manager for the public realm contract.

“Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to conduct extensive community engagement over the next three years to shape it based on feedback from our stakeholders.”

Construction on the public realm will start in 2023, after the guideway is complete, and finish in 2024.

It will all mean the well-worn Davenport Diamond and adjacent communities are about to see an impressive transformation.

For more information on the project, just go here.

Story by Nick Faieta, Metrolinx senior advisor, communications and stakeholder relations.