Lakeshore East rail corridor construction gets underway – with some green additions

During a recent town hall with residents of Toronto’s Woodbine-Danforth neighbourhood, Metrolinx asked the community about their priorities for the restoration of the local ravine after construction. The community responded – their top priorities are to retain as many trees as possible and to plant more trees in compensation.

Metrolinx has heard the community loud and clear.

The transit agency says it wants to find a balance between what needs to be removed for the addition of a fourth track and future electrification infrastructure, and what can be done to restore the natural ecological footprint.

To that end, Metrolinx is committed to funding the planting of up to 2,000 additional trees in this community to meet Metrolinx’s Vegetation Compensation guideline and meet the transit agency’s commitment to replacing trees and shrubs removed during construction. Metrolinx will also work with the project contractor to minimize tree removals as much as possible.

Metrolinx is working closely with the City of Toronto officials and Urban Forestry department, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and in the coming months will be reaching out to the community to figure out where these trees can be planted.

Metrolinx officials acknowledge only so many trees can go into the ravine itself but says many of the additional 2,000 trees can be planted elsewhere in the community. Places like parkettes, the nearby waterfront, and school fields are all locations up for discussion.

A GO Train travels along the Lakeshore East corridor just beyond the ravine. (Metrolinx photo)
A GO Train travels along the Lakeshore East corridor just beyond the ravine.

“We recognize the importance of the ravine and the natural refuge it offers residents and families,” says Gretel Green, an ecologist and environmental project manager at Metrolinx. “We will be restoring and enhancing the area with native species that will provide a better functioning ravine feature for both the community and wildlife that use it.”

The trees that Metrolinx plants come with a two-year warranty which will ensure they stay alive for the first critical years.

When will construction start?

Area residents have been anticipating the launch of major construction in this area, part of a larger package of GO Expansion work between Pape Avenue and Kennedy Road.

The contract for this work has now been awarded to LS Lakeshore Contractors.

Work on portions of the corridor has already begun, but the work in Small’s Creek will start in approximately October 2021. The retaining wall and culvert will take approximately four to six months to construct, and the restoration of the area will begin following the work.

Restoring Nature

The restoration plan includes a variety of native plantings including a minimum of 260 trees, 932 shrubs, and 4,000 smaller plants to support re-naturalization. In addition, as many as possible of the 2,000 trees Metrolinx is committed to planting will be in the Small’s Creek area, in partnership with the TRCA and City of Toronto.

Trees in the small's creek ravine with snow covering much of the area
Metrolinx is committed to working the community to minimize the impact on the environment as work to expand transit continues. (Metrolinx photo)

Metrolinx’s arborists have identified the ravine currently has many invasive species, which out compete the native vegetation – greatly reducing the high-quality habitat that wildlife depends on. Of the 268 trees identified for removal, 205 are invasive species including Manitoba maple and Norway maple. The planting of native trees and other vegetation will help to restore the ecological function of the ravine.

Once the work and restoration are complete, the ravine will be available for the community’s enjoyment once again.

Digging in Deeper

Metrolinx has worked closely with the City of Toronto and the TRCA to find a solution that is the least disruptive to the natural environment. The community asked for justification that the proposed retaining wall in Small’s Creek Ravine is the best technical, social and environmental solution for slope stabilization.

To that end, Metrolinx met with the local community group and made available engineers and consultants to go over all the options that were considered. The criteria used to select the right solution were to minimize the impact to the ravine, avoid work in the watercourse as much as possible and stabilize the slope to allow for safe rail operations. The retaining wall is the only solution that meets all the criteria and is the one that avoids the most tree removals.

The retaining wall and culvert replacement underwent an independent third-party review by the TRCA and is the least intrusive option.

An artist’s rendering of the new culvert and retaining wall. All renderings subject to change.
An artist’s rendering of the new culvert and retaining wall. All renderings subject to change. (Metrolinx rendering).

The rail embankment needs to be widened on the north side, to make room for the future fourth track and electrification. Grading work is required to do this. The retaining wall design meets the safety and regulatory requirements set out by Transport Canada and the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA). It is designed to support the weight of passenger and freight trains that will travel along these tracks.

Residents can stay informed by signing up to get the latest construction notices and updates. Metrolinx Community Relations will continue to share information and will also be setting up regular construction liaison committee meetings to help answer questions and concerns from the community during the project.

Sign up for updates on Toronto Lakeshore East Rail Corridor early works project here and follow us @GOExpansion.

Story by Patricia Pytel, manager, capital projects communications, Metrolinx