Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bank Street Phase III, Intro and part 1

Last year, I posted a single post on Phase II of the Bank Street reconstruction project, between Laurier West and Somerset West. This year, there's much more to post about: The new bike racks are up, and there are so many more blocks of construction to blog. I already blogged about the streetcar rail ties dug up from under Bank Street back in May.

While paring down last year's set was hard, I took many more photos of this year's work. In September, I selected the best photos, printed out thumbnails, and sorted them into groups over a cup of Earl Grey at Bridgehead:

Then I got busy, and by the time things had died down, I had taken many more photos that I wanted to incorporate into the series.

I've finally gotten around to sorting them out for posting. Click below to go to the relevant post:

Part 1: Sidewalks

Old sidewalks meet new on Bank near Catherine Street in this photo from last week. In the background is the Bank street Queensway underpass:

Here's a reminder of what the sidewalks looked like on Bank before the recent reconstruction. This shot looking South from Bank and Gloucester in front of the Tim Horton's shows a rather rather cluttered, claustrophobic, uncoordinated corner--and that's after they moved the newspaper boxes away shortly before this photos was taken in October 2007. Many intersections had an engraved stone block with the name of the intersecting street laid into the pavement. The one at this intersection had long been removed and filled in with asphalt. Another at Gladstone (photographed in this post) had been broken up through wear and tear.

Construction on Phase three of the five-phase Bank Street Reconstruction project began a year ago this week, with the removal of the sidewalk at the plagued South-East corner of Somerset and Bank.

Most of the other sidewalks down to Catherine survived until the majority of the utility work under the roads was complete. These squares of sidewalk in front of the James Street Pub were being delicately removed in late May.

Once the old sidewalks were removed and a bed of foundation gravel was laid at the right height, the new sidewalk was outlined with a guide rope suspended from a series of posts. In this mid-August photo at Bank and Gilmour, the bulbout outline is clearly visible, and guarded by yellow caution tape. The spool for the rope is visible in the foreground.

The wire is used to line up the wooden concrete forms, as shown here on Bank and MacLaren in front of the Quizno's restaurant. A gas-operated tamping machine is used to compress the gravel underneath to avoid damage to the sidewalk caused by settling.

On long, straight sections of sidewalk, they don't use wooden forms, but instead a curb-laying machine such as this one in front of the Rogers Plus store on Bank and Gilmour. It's faster, smoother, and more consistent. Eric Darwin has photos of one of these machines in use on Preston Street over at West Side Action.

Here's a closeup of the working end of the machine:

Here's the old sidewalk in front of Hartman's, looking South from Bank and Somerset. This was always a narrow block to walk down, especially where the Bank Street BIA's big black advertising box occupies a good portion of sidewalk real estate. (The old round Bank Street Promenade sign is also visible on the post in the foreground, and others are visible in the background in various rotations) This photo was taken in early December 2008.

During construction, the sidewalk had been removed. By mid-August, you can see some wooden stakes beginning to mark the new sidewalk outline on the other side of the Modu-Loc construction fence.

At the end of August, the curb was poured, and another tamping machine sits in this nighttime photo waiting to compress the gravel under the sidewalk to be poured.

Two days later, forms have been installed for the sidewalk, and a moving assembly line of Local 527 workers pour, level, and smoothen the sidewalk. The worker in the blue helmet is holding a paintbrush, which he's using to add a border around the street lamp.

And here's the finished sidewalk. The traveled portion of the new sidewalk is as wide as the entire old sidewalk, and there's an extra section for furniture to be installed. On the North half of the block, it's even wider. A new bus shelter was installed in the wider part of the sidewalk in the last couple days, which will be welcome to the many, many people who wait at that stop. Grooves increase traction at the intersection, and double as a guide for the visually-impaired.

I think the construction process was refined over last year (Bank will reopen two weeks ahead of schedule). For example, the section pictured in the photo below shows some squares of sidewalk yet to be poured in the Phase II part of the project between Laurier and Somerset. There's an earlier photo of that block in the aforementioned post from last year, showing just how many people walk through this block looking North from Gloucester:

These squares of sidewalk hold the foundations for the street lamps, and are reinforced with steel rebar. The sidewalk in front of Hartman's doesn't have rebar, and the squares with the lamps are poured at the same time as the rest of the sidewalk.

But the really peculiar thing with this stretch is that temporary wooden pole in the middle of the street!

Here's another peculiarity I spotted yesterday: six sewer grates are built into the sidewalk across from Lewis street. Six. One presumes a lot of water collects at this corner during storms. This in-curb design is great (pun unintended) for cyclists, because you don't have to swerve around them into traffic. Since they aren't in the asphalt portion of the street, cars don't run over them and break apart the surrounding asphalt, meaning they don't require repair nearly as often, meaning less patchwork of asphalt to be broken up. Sewer grates on the roadway make for vicious cycling.

All in all, the new sidewalks are much wider, fresher and cleaner than the old ones. Here's another old-and-new shot of the sidewalk in front of Herb & Spice at Bank and Lewis, December 2008:
And September 2009. Finally there will be room for adequate bike parking!

The Google Street View car went down Bank street in March, before most of the work was started. Pop a step or two down the cross-streets for a later view. While you're waiting two days for the next post, why don't you take a few minutes to check out what Bank Street used to look like on Google Street View, then take a stroll down Bank Street and notice the difference.

Tune in Tuesday for the Part II: Lights

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for documenting this stuff. It's very interesting, and I can see the work you put into it.