Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canada’s busiest train station starts $650-million refurbishment

After years of talk and planning, construction has started on a major expansion and refurbishment of histori...

June 7, 2010   Canadian Consulting Engineer

After years of talk and planning, construction has started on a major expansion and refurbishment of historic Union Station in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Built in 1915-20 on Front Street West, the structure is revered as a masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture, in particular for its colonnaded front, and the Grand Hall which is 76 metres long and 27 metres high. The hall is paved in marble and has a soaring arched roof and four-storey high windows at each end.
Though it was built for an era when rail travel reigned supreme, the station is still Canada’s busiest rail terminus, handling up to 65 million passengers per year. It serves both inter-city and cross-country VIA trains, and commuter GO Transit service to communities around the metropolis.
NORR Partnership is the prime consultant for  the $650-million renovations. The multi-disciplinary firm is doing architecture, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering under the leadership of senior project manager David Barrington. FGMA of Montreal is in charge of the heritage aspects, and Carillion Vanbots is the contractor and is in charge of construction management.
The above-ground historic structure is being restored, and the upper three levels of the west wing are being renovated to become the head office of Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency. Below ground, the currently crowded concourse is to be tripled in size, with new underground areas to the west beside York Street, and to the east beside Bay Street. The new concourse areas will be a total of 11,334-square metres (122,000 sq.ft.), mainly for retail outlets. New pedestrian access is being created to the waterfront and Wellington Street, and the connection to the adjacent Toronto subway Union Station is also being revamped.
Green features in the building will include connection to the deep-lake water cooling system, and the installation of photovoltaic panels.
The renovation is being funded by all three levels of government, with the city of Toronto contributing half.  The city purchased the station in 2000.
Barrington says that design packages will be ready by 2011 and completion is scheduled for 2015. The original building, which officially opened in 1927, was designed by Ross and Macdonald of Montreal, with Hugh Johnes and John M. Lyle.
Located immediately to the north, the Toronto Transit Commission’s Union Station for subway transit is also being refurbished and expanded. AECOM are consulting engineers on that $137-million makeover due to be completed in 2014.


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