Winter is coming. The Valley Line Southeast project team is making tracks in a race against the changing seasons.
Along most of the $1.8-billion project, which will provide a new public transportation route from Downtown to Mill Woods, the work is focused on installing rail. The progress is visible.
In some scenes from last month, here’s what progress looks (and doesn’t sound) like. 😀
In this pic, construction workers are forming concrete slabs along 102 Avenue. A custom-sized wood block, wrapped in special plastic, is placed within the concrete while it is being poured. The wood block is then removed, leaving an empty channel in the finished concrete slab. Later, these slabs, called track bed, will house the rails for the Valley Line’s Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) to run along.
The short grey walls, known as forms, hold the concrete in place until it hardens. The forms used on the Valley Line Southeast are reusable pieces that are relocated down the line to repeat the process. The forms also help the construction team achieve a uniform look along the edge of the track bed along the entire route.
Heading east along 102 Avenue, the Valley Line runs between the Winspear Centre, Citadel Theatre, and Churchill Square–the beating heart of the arts district.
The Winspear is home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and plays host to numerous musicians and top performers each year. It is a world-class facility, acoustically engineered for a superior auditory experience.
Ensuring that the LRT moves passengers while the Winspear Centre moves audiences is important to the City. The new low-floor trains will run quieter than vehicle traffic, but the project team wanted to ensure people in Edmonton continue to enjoy performances as the artists intended.
So, they used some art of their own.
The small section of track beside the Winspear Centre features a sound- and vibration-dampening system visible only during construction. That’s what the short silver pillars are. These pillars, which are a series of canistered springs, form part of the track bed. In this area, the track bed will be different. It will “float” rather than be permanently connected to the ground. The springs will significantly cut down noise and vibration from the train as they, rather than the ground around the track bed, absorb the vibrations.
Dropping down into the River Valley, construction continues on the Tawatinâ Bridge piers. The north pier will be the tallest, with the vertical arms of the bridge anchoring the support cables for the bridge deck.
This bridge will carry Light Rail Vehicles over the North Saskatchewan River. This bridge will also connect existing pathways between the Cloverdale and Riverdale neighbourhoods. A lower bridge deck will feature a centre-running cycle track with pedestrian walkways on either side. Lookout decks will let people drink in the view.
The first stop south of the river will be near the Muttart Conservatory. Temporary overnight lane closures occur in October to allow TransEd, the consortium contracted to design, build and operate the Valley Line Southeast, to do prep work needed to later install bridge spans to carry LRVs over top of 98 Avenue.
The continuous bridge span from the North Saskatchewan River over 98 Avenue eliminates the need for a new intersection that would have been required for a ground-level crossing in the same location.
Continuing south from the Muttart stop, the Valley Line Southeast will carry passengers out of the River Valley along Connors Road. Crews have completed slope stabilization work and applied erosion fabric to support native plants as they take root along the modified slope. The goal is to return this area to its pre-construction condition. To encourage Mother Nature to reclaim the hill, TransEd will plant birch, poplar and aspen saplings, along with clusters of shrubs native to the Edmonton region.
LRVs will travel along 83 Street towards Bonnie Doon Mall where passengers can access businesses, recreation facilities and schools—all within a short walk of the stop.
Just north of the Bonnie Doon stop, the tracks have a curved section of rails called a “cross-over” that allows LRV operators to change between the northbound and southbound tracks. These rails are carefully unloaded and placed by the construction team. The angle of the curve leaves a miniscule tolerance for deviation in forming the track bed. (That’s engineerspeak for “this is precise work.”) To ensure a perfect fit, the concrete slab will be poured around the rails. This rail-first, track-bed second approach for the cross-overs is unique. Along most of the route the train travels down long, straight sections of track where the track bed is formed first and the rails installed second.
Here, in the King Edward Park neighbourhood south of Bonnie Doon Mall along 83 Street, is an example of a long straight section of track where the concrete track bed was formed before the rails were placed in the channels.
Steel rail clamps, shown in the photo above, hold the rail in place while construction workers fill the rail bed with Icosit, a rail-specific type of semi-flexible grout made of polyurethane. Once set, the Icosit hardens to a stiff rubbery texture that keeps the rail in place and reduces vibration from the LRV when it moves along the tracks.
Along the entire route special power lines are needed to operate the LRVs. The area south of Whitemud Drive is the first to have these power lines delivered and installed. The wires are delivered on large spools. Workers then use lift equipment to connect them to the Overhead Catenary System (OCS) poles.
Electricity travels from the wires to the LRVs through the vehicle’s pantograph, the metal ‘hook’ that extends from the roof to the power lines. Electricity is then distributed to operate the train’s motor and other systems. The power lines are high voltage. Contact with any part of the OCS should be avoided.
TransEd has committed to planting more than 10 times the number of plants it removes.
Some of the first new greenery is beginning to appear in landscaping along 66 Street south of Whitemud Drive where the track bed and rails were completed earlier this summer.
The City of Edmonton’s Corporate Tree Management Policy mandates that trees removed in construction be replaced as part of the project. The landscaping work will create a more natural environment around the LRT, and enhance the feel and character of the nearby communities.
This section of the Valley Line Southeast now preparing for the next phase of the project—testing!
As you can see, the construction season has been busy for Valley Line Southeast teams with work taking place across the entire 13.1-km route. Work will continue as long as weather permits and it is safe to do so.
Thanks for riding, thanks for reading. Check transformingedmonton.ca for further updates.
June 7, 2019: Taking shape: a quick Valley Line Southeast tour!
August 15, 2019: Taking shape: Valley Line Southeast update 2