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Mississauga’s bus-only road a unique GTA feature

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Building a bus-only road that will save commuters precious travelling time hasn’t come without some hurdles and setbacks for the City of Mississauga and its consultants and contractors.

Still, Dufferin Construction is within striking distance of finishing construction of the second of three phases that includes the eastern segment of an 18-kilometre long, 12-station Mississauga Transitway.

"We’re not quite sure when that will be, but very shortly," says Scott Anderson, the city’s manager, transitway construction.

When completed next year, the transitway will extend from Winston Churchill Blvd. on the city’s west side right over to Renforth Drive near its east border with Toronto.

From the west, buses will travel on a dedicated transitway from Winston Churchill to Erin Mills Parkway and then along an existing 1.5 kilometre bus-only lane on Highway 403 to Mississauga’s downtown core. From there they will continue along a corridor which is being built parallel to Highway 403, Eastgate Parkway and Eglinton Avenue.

The final stop on the east will be the Renforth Gateway station. Now being built by Dufferin under a separate contract with Metrolinx, it will provide connections to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Anderson says.

Passengers will be able to access buses from the stations which have a wide range of features including bicycle shelters and heated platforms, he says.

Funded by the federal and provincial governments, Metrolinx and the city, the transitway can only be used by MiWay (Mississauga Transit) express and local buses and GO Transit buses, which will start running there when the line becomes operational in 2017.

The only exceptions will be maintenance, police and emergency vehicles, says Anderson.

"There is nothing like this in the Greater Toronto Area," says the project manager, noting that bus-only roads are extremely rare in the province. The closest parallel is Ottawa’s OC Transpo system.

First proposed in the early 1990s, the transitway required "significant property acquisition." Most of the properties, however, were small sections of land, rather than entire blocks and some were purchased from Infrastructure Ontario, he says.

The transitway is a joint venture between Mississauga and Metrolinx, the crown agency responsible for road and public transit initiatives in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. It is overseeing the west leg, known as Mississauga Transitway West, which includes two stations, one of which is already open. Dufferin Construction is the contractor there as well.

The eastern wing — the corridor adjacent Highway 403, Eastgate Parkway and Eglinton Avenue — is being managed by the city. The consultant is MMM Group (now part of WSP Global) while the stations were designed by the IBI Group.

Construction of this section has been divided into three west-to-east phases, with contracts awarded to two firms: The first phase was awarded to B. Gottardo Construction and the second and third ones to Dufferin.

In 2014, after four years of work, Gottardo Construction finished the first phase which included building the first four stations.

As part of phase two, now wrapping up, Dufferin built two more stations. Next year three more stations, including the Renforth Gateway will come into service. All four will provide public transit links to the sprawling Airport Corporate Centre.

Providing that connecting link, however, wasn’t easy because the transitway had to be excavated under "a significant number" of roads leading into the centre.

"Only two roads were closed at a time and they were alternating ones," says Anderson on the measures that were put in place to lessen the construction impact.

Touching on some other challenges, he points out that various sections of the construction route were comprised of thick bedrock.

"Then, with a very short distance, the contractor would run into areas of very loose soil."

And although no buildings had to be demolished to make way for the corridor, the transitway does come very close to existing businesses including an eye surgery clinic. Precondition inspections and vibration monitoring were and are required, he says.

A foundation of one of the stations also had to be lowered so it wouldn’t be undermined if repair work had to be conducted on nearby utility lines.

Considerable dewatering was also required, especially after a major storm hit the Mississauga area a few years ago, says Anderson.

Keeping the public informed of both the function and progress of the Mississauga Transitway, especially through the use of social media, is an integral component of the project.

"I think we have done a decent job (on communications)," says Anderson.

With the exception of a few motorists who "got mixed up" and mistakenly drove onto the busway, most drivers realize it’s for buses only, he states.

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