Monday, May 13, 2013

Bronson and Somerset still closed

Construction on Bronson Avenue resumed a while ago, with the Somerset and Bronson intersection closed from the beginning of April to the end of May. Other work has also been going on, such as the finishing touches of the segment south of Somerset, in particular the sidewalks and landscaping between MacLaren and Gladstone (which Eric Darwin has recently blogged about). The impact on Chinatown can be expressed in this single photo:

This next picture gives a bit of an idea of why the intersection has to be closed for so long. There's a mess of stuff underneath that needs to be replaced. It's a three-dimensional soup of cables, wires, pipes, drains, and sewers (much of the latter were installed late last year and over the winter).

 The cables—which include electricity, various telecoms, and traffic signals—all feed into these chambers to split off for distribution to different parts of the city. Bronson and Somerset are both long streets that cross the city, and the space underneath this intersection is at a premium.

Ten days (er, nights) after the last photo was taken, the old chamber had been broken apart, and the cables routed thusly. Wooden formwork was being assembled around the jumble of wires to create a new chamber. Precast utility chambers exist, but behind a fairly small size, they become to complex and it's simpler just to build a custom one on the spot. (They also did this just to the left in the intersection, roughly under where the backhoe is)

They have to do this at every intersection, which is why each one gets closed for a few weeks. Here's an eye-popping 3D photo of one of these chambers being assembled late last June, at the Arlington intersection:

Source photos for the 3D images: Left, Right

The 20-year-old Chinatown lantern-style pedestrian lights were removed this past Friday, and only a few bits remain. Here the base with wiring and the baseplate cover are still here in the foreground, and in the far side of the temporary asphalt sidewalk you can make out some lantern heads and a banner arm bracket.

As with the construction last year on Somerset between Booth and Preston, these will be replaced with the new design. Since Somerset has a BIA and Bronson doesn't, the Somerset motif will dominate through the intersection; the black Bronson lights will pick back up north of the intersection. This will still leave some sections of Somerset with the old lights (which are simple enough to replace or repair) and their associated underground wiring (which aren't). And since those sections already had their century-old underground infrastructure replaced a couple decades ago, the lights aren't going to be changed anytime soon between Bay and Bronson and between Cambridge and Booth.

Luckily, we were able to get the block of Somerset from Bronson to the Arch re-done as part of the streetscaping for Bronson, which was necessary to re-align the lanes and widen the sidewalks. The very beginnings of this is visible in the form of sawcuts along the sidewalk edge to take out the curb along Somerset in front of the gas station up to the arch:

So it's not all bad; we are getting some streetscaping replacements, repairs, and in some cases even improvements (though I had to keep myself from whacking a worker who complained to me about how hard it is to fit everything into such narrow sidewalks and had we thought about removing a lane of traffic!) As with the Bronson/Gladstone intersection last year, they intend to finish all of the curbs and asphalt and other things in the Bronson/Somerset intersection before it reopens, so that they won't have to close that intersection again (though Bronson will still be closed from Somerset to Laurier).

Oh, and if you don't remember what the intersection looked like still open and you've still got your 3D glasses out, check out this post from February of the Chinatown Gateway Arch in 3D with the intersection behind it.

Work south of MacLaren should be complete in June, and work from Somerset northward should be complete around the end of September. That'll be it for construction on Bronson until the city's massive LRT project is finished in 2018.

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