The East Rail Maintenance Facility will enhance GO Transit’s operations and be a feather in the cap for the Plenary Group, Bird Design Build and Kiewit Infrastructure.
By Eric Slack
Located in Whitby, Ontario, the development of the East Rail Maintenance Facility (ERMF) is a critical part of GO Transit’s planned service expansion. When complete, the new facility will provide maintenance, repair and additional storage for GO trains.
GO Transit is Ontario’s regional transit system. It is an operating division within Metrolinx, a Crown agency that manages and integrates public transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). An extensive network of train lines and bus routes, GO Transit carries more than 68 million passengers annually.
“Metrolinx has a mandate to manage mobility solutions in and around the area,” says Doug Rolfe, vice president of project delivery with the Plenary Group. “Currently, only a single maintenance facility services all of their trains. It is over capacity, and a new facility will assist with current and future maintenance needs.”
Also working with GO Transit on this project is Infrastructure Ontario (IO), as procurement lead and in a contract management role. The ERMF is a significant transit project for Plenary Infrastructure ERMF, a consortium that includes a number of partners. The developers are Plenary Group (Canada) Ltd., Kiewit Canada Development Corp. and Bird Capital Limited Partnership. Construction partners are Bird Design-Build Construction Inc. and Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co. Designers are Stantec Consulting and Arup Canada Inc. Facilities management is provided by Honeywell Limited and Toronto Terminals Railway, with financing provided by TD Bank, Bank of Montreal and TD Securities.
Funded by the Province of Ontario and PPP Canada, a public-private partnership arm of the federal government, the project is being delivered using IO’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model.
“Our AFP model is an innovative way to finance and procure large public infrastructure projects,” says Derrick Toigo, senior vice president of heavy rail at IO. “We transfer appropriate project risks to the private sector and negotiate a fixed-price contract. The end result is a publicly owned infrastructure project, built to a high standard and maintained properly to ensure longevity.”
The ERMF will add capacity and flexibility for GO Transit. Now, its Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility handles all maintenance, including refueling, daily inspections, washing and repairs. Developing the facility in Whitby will help GO Transit serve its growing rail fleet, allow it to increase ridership and revenue, and support expected population growth in the GTHA.
Additionally, the ERMF will reduce GO Transit’s operational risks. Right now, any operational issues at the Willowbrook facility or along the corridor that connects Willowbrook to other corridors would have a major impact on rail service. The ERMF will help GO Transit service new rolling stock while providing operational flexibility and redundancy, ensuring reliable transit service if any emergency situations arise.
Beyond that, the ERMF has been designed to comply with future electrification of GO Transit’s rail lines. The 500,000-square-foot facility will include cleaning and service shops, offices and parking for staff. It will have enough tracks for storage and daily maintenance of up to 22 12-car passenger trains, with 13 at substantial completion and capacity for an additional nine in the future.
“The main building will hold maintenance bays that are large enough to accommodate full-length GO trains,” Rolfe says. “The project includes a three-story facility along with ancillary buildings as well as track and yard space for storage and other activities such as fueling.”
A number of community, economic and green benefits will also be realized as a result of ERMF’s development. At construction’s peak, about 1,000 workers will be on-site, and most will come from the GTHA. It will also create permanent jobs in the area. Lastly, its design and construction elements will allow Metrolinx to pursue LEED Gold certification, as sustainability targets have been incorporated into the project.
“For example, rainwater collection from the main building and canopy roof will be reused to wash the trains,” Rolfe says. “Extensive use of glass will let in plenty of natural light.”
Construction on the ERMF facility began in the spring of 2015. It is scheduled to be complete by December 2017.
“It is located on a 76-acre site, with a 500,000-square-foot combined building footprint and about 16 kilometers of track,” says Scott Reitsma, project director with Bird Construction. “At this stage, we are approaching one year of onsite construction and are about 40 per cent complete.”
As the project moves into construction of the rail yard, the team must closely monitor the work that will be taking place near the existing rail lines. The size of the future facility and the aggressive construction schedule are also challenging since it is a fast track design/build project and construction is proceeding before the design is finalized. Coordination with development work taking place around the project is another important undertaking.
“An existing road and bridge run through the site and we need to work around them,” Reitsma says. “Additionally, the equipment in the building is highly specialized and we need to coordinate all of this from a mechanical, electrical and structural installation perspective.”
Fortunately, most of the staff developing this project are located on the work site in Whitby. There is an onsite office for personnel with the Bird Kiewit joint venture team, as well as an office for Metrolinx and IO project staff. This arrangement helps to manage the project and allows for regular coordination and communication with all subtrades to maintain an aggressive schedule.
In the end, this is a unique project and developing something like the ERMF doesn’t happen very often. It will fundamentally improve the future of GO Transit’s operations and become a part of the legacy for all of the stakeholders involved.
“The Metrolinx ERMF project delivery team is thrilled to be involved in a flagship project that will define GO Transit for decades to come. It will play a key role in the single largest expansion of public transit in history of the GTHA”, says Daryl Barnett, vice president of network infrastructure for Metrolinx’s capital projects group.
“Our focus has been on making this facility as efficient as possible, so its layout is integrated in a way that accounts for its future operational flow. This will ensure efficient equipment sequencing during scheduled maintenance,” Barnett continues. “Other initiatives set it apart from other rail maintenance facilities, and it will set a new standard as far as GO rail facilities. It will accommodate our future electrified fleet and will include an automated track and signals system. Lastly, it will include a full-service paint shop, which will allow us to re-paint our rolling stock in-house.”
Barnett also expressed Metrolinx’s commitment to sustainable design. “We are aiming high with our plans to obtain LEED Gold certification and that has been our aim on the organizational level. One of the elements that will play a role in making this facility sustainable will be cogeneration systems that will provide partial electrical power and heat for the buildings.”
“The East Rail Maintenance Facility will provide enough capacity to maintain GO Transit’s fleet for the present and the future,” adds Rolfe. “This is an exciting and challenging project. Transportation infrastructure is an important market and our goal is to help our client realize their vision.”