Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reconnecting Bathurst Street

As promised... about three weeks ago... a digest of the changes on the closed portion of Bathurst Street in the vicinity of Holland Marsh.

This is most of an hour north of Toronto. Bathurst Street is a major north-south street in Toronto, but it also extends northward through most of York Region as well. It's in the process, right now, of being completely 4-laned all the way up to where it meets Yonge Street... which runs parallel to it, most of the way north, until heading west to intersect it near Holland Marsh. What you'll be seeing here is roughly a kilometer south of that intersection.

This stretch of Bathurst, running not quite half a kilometer, was closed about 1995 because the road was just too rough and, as you'll see, the little bridge crossing the creek down there is in phenomenally bad shape, especially its retaining walls. Prior to that, it was a twisty, windy little country track down to the creek and back up. It doesn't give the impression it was ever paved, or even adequate for two lane traffic. I'm really surprised it remained open as late as it did.

There was a write-up about it in the Toronto Star in the summer of 2013 that sent me and P-Doug out there for a first time on an overcast Saturday in July.

The view above looks back down south in the direction we've just come from.

The view above shows where we finally head off "the road" you could still (technically) drive on, and out into the part that had been closed for 18 years or so at that point.

Above, you can see the the little bridge that once carried Bathurst Street traffic.

Notice the concrete barriers that were added at some point in the past to keep cars from falling off the bridge. On the right, you can see just how badly the bridge's own barriers have deteriorated.

Heading north up the hill from the bridge.

This view looks back south toward the hill we'd just climbed.

In the distance, above, you can see the telephone poles of the other end of Bathurst still open to traffic.

This is just about as far as we got. The ground was very wet, and we'd had enough trouble with treacherous mud that we decided to abort the trip (slip?) down this hill to the other extant end of Bathurst, and leave it for another day. As well, the light sprinkling of rain graduated, also about this point, into real rain. We turned around, and headed back. Long before we got back to my car, we were in the most profound downpour I can actually remember being outdoors in. It was so bad I was actually fearing for my cell phone and the cameras. Fortunately, they came through it all just fine.

These views face south, back the way we came. They're meant to suggest the trip back, but in fact were taken when we arrived at the bridge, earlier. By the time we were actually back down the hill and crossing the bridge again, the rain had reached the point of precluding taking more pictures. We just wanted to make it back to the safety of the car.

I came back on my own two months later, in early September, and did that northern leg we hadn't done in July. I only went as far as the bridge on my own, figuring that between the two trips, we'd covered the whole length of the close part of Bathurst Street.

This is the view of Bathurst north from the road closure, which is behind me in this view. Those are the phone poles we only glimpsed through the rain from the hilltop in July.

Facing south, this is where the road closure began. Previously, you eased up the hill in a curve off to the left, as seen below.

This view marks the approximate location where we called it quits in July.

A view of the bridge from the east side, showing the gaps in its retainer railings.This view basically looks back north up the winding hill I'd just descended to reach the bridge.

I took many more photos than I'm showing here, of course, and with that accomplished, I decided we were good until they actually got around to building the bypass that was mooted in the Toronto Star article that spring. I figured it would be quite a while. As it turns out, I'm glad we made these trips when we did.

I didn't bother with the place throughout 2014 but at the end of March this year (2015), P-Doug and Larry and I went out there just briefly to see if any work had been done. Returning to the north end, which I had visited alone in September, 2013, we were greeted with views like these.

This view looks south up a whole new path for Bathurst Street.The hazard sign you're seeing here is not in the same position as the one at the foot of the scrubby little hill, which was off the left in this view, about 50' away.

This was the view looking north down Bathurst by late March, 2015... the direction we'd just driven in from (the intersection with Yonge Street is in the extreme distance, not really visible in this view). You can see that Bathurst swings to the left under the telephone poles. The previous course was off the right, on the other side of the telephone poles.

Needless to say, at that point, we decided we'd need to come back from time to time and see what kind of progress was being made. And we did.

In July, exactly two years and four days after our first trip, P-Doug and I returned.

Climbing up, we came to a sudden drop...

...that overlooked the new culvert being constructed for that same creek the little bridge (out of sight, off to the left in this view) crossed. 

This view corresponds very roughly with the views of the muddy hill heading south back down to the little bridge...

...which itself is just out of sight in the trees at the bottom of the hill here, above.

We speculated about whether or not the bridge would have survived all the construction. I had read in PDFs that the Region had issued that it would be spared and left off in the wilderness. P-Doug was doubtful but we were both pleased to find it was still there when we got down the hill.

This view looks northwest into the construction of the culvert. What a different view compared to the lush vegetation seen on the west side of the bridge that first, rainy July we stood here.

The above two views show the rise back up from the bridge heading southward. The last time we did this, it was pouring rain. There was also rather more of the road veering off to the west here. You can see the clearing of the new road course just beyond the rise. This was more or less as far south as we ventured on foot. We turned around and went back to the car, and decided to drive around to the south end of the construction.

This is that south end, and the view is south, back in the direction we'd just driven. Far off in the distance you can see the four-lane modern road that Bathurst is at the crest of the distant hill... soon to be the same in this view, above.

This view looks north, toward the distant intersection of Yonge and Bathurst. That's the extant part of Bathurst in the distance.

I decided to use my cell phone to figure out where we were. The blue dot shows our approximate location. As it turns out, this is very close to where we got out of the car and started walking north that first time we were here. The view has changed so much there's no way of telling that just to look, though. Oddly enough, the aerial view Google was using at the time still shows the old, pre-construction view. You can quite clearly see where the road closure was established, and the line of the creek on the right. The location of the bridge is only just cut off at the very bottom of the Google search bar. Compare that to this "updated" view, which is already considerably out of date, but shows something like the status of construction sometime between when we were there in March and returned in July...

You'll notice, above, the little bit of a road just off to the right side towards the top of the image. That's the original course of Bathurst, and the shadow line snaking through the forest on the right shows where the creek is. Where they meet is where the little broken bridge still sits.

Most recently, we returned in mid-September, again coming in from the north side and heading south. I'll let these pictures speak for themselves (for the most part), other than to say you can see the tremendous amount of work that's been done accommodating the new culvert. I can only imagine what this is going to look like by this time next year.

 Above, facing west.

Above, facing east toward old bridge. Yes, that's a barbecue, apparently.

The old bridge, safely off to the side. Just.


Jim Grey said...

Now that's some mighty serious roadgeekery. Interesting that they're leaving the old bridge in place. I'd think there'd be some safety/liability concern that would have them remove it.

barefoot hiker said...

Heya Jim. :) I think, though I'm not sure, the reason is that there's no reason to remove it. Aside from service vehicles, no one's had motor access to it for 20 years, but it's safe enough for pedestrians. The deck seems fine. There are a fair number of people in the vicinity who've probably been using the old road to hike and exercise their dogs, and I imagine they'll make the bridge part of some trail. This is all just speculation on my part, of course, but I'm glad it's survived.