Repair work expected to continue through Thursday
Conflicting construction projects prevented the city from upgrading the aging water main blamed for a Highway 403 mudslide, which continues to snarl traffic four days later.
The landslide between Main Street and York Boulevard stopped Toronto-bound vehicles on the highway for 10 hours on Friday — and ongoing slope repairs are prolonging traffic woes, particularly for drivers heading into the city. Work to stabilize the embankment, expected to continue through Thursday, has closed one eastbound lane of the 403, the Hamilton-bound lanes of York Boulevard and the associated highway off-ramp. City-bound motorists reported highway backups at morning rush hour and some buses were rerouted or delayed.
“We understand it’s a problem, that a lot of people are inconvenienced,” said engineering director Gary Moore, adding the York Boulevard lanes are needed for construction staging.
“It wasn’t considered practical to have (lanes) open and then closed, open and closed. We are working as hard as we can to open them once and leave them open.”
The city planned to rehabilitate the 50-year-old main this year with a resin-coated fibre lining that is pulled through the pipe in sections.
Moore said the city didn’t suspect a problem but was instead preparing for redevelopment at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is fed by the 15-centimetre-diameter pipe.
The section between Dundurn Street and the high-level bridge was completed, said Moore — but nearby highway ramp construction on York Boulevard by the province made it impossible for the city to finish the “relining” project this year.
There’s no guarantee the rehabilitation would have prevented a mudslide, however.
“From what we can tell, it appears this would have been leaking for a long time,” Moore said.
The slide dumped more than 25 truck loads of mud and debris on the highway and created a three-metre-deep “cave” in the embankment nearly tall enough to stand up in.
City spokesperson Kelly Anderson said concerns about slope stability also convinced the city to close the Hamilton-bound lanes on York Boulevard.
The road normally gets 32,000 vehicles a day, including 15,000 heading into the city.
“We are trying to limit excess traffic volumes in this area for the time being,” she said.
City water director Dan McKinnon said workers have found and uncovered the leak in the pipe and will repair it Wednesday.
Work to make the slope safe will continue through Thursday, however.
York remains off-limits to Hamilton-bound traffic, but Anderson said if repairs end up taking longer than anticipated, the city could open a lane of traffic in each direction.
The Ministry of Transportation isn’t detouring traffic off Highway 403 because only one eastbound lane is closed during the day for repairs, said spokesperson Astrid Poei. Electronic signs are being used to warn motorists in advance of the closed lane and York off-ramp.