First GO Trains Operate Over the Davenport Diamond Guideway …

Today, Tuesday, April 7 at 6:13 AM, the first GO Transit[1] trains carrying paying passengers glided across the new Davenport Diamond Guideway and into the history books.

A GO train crosses the Davenport Diamond Guideway during testing, Monday, April 3, 2023, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor ProjectEnd

That first train trip marks the end of major construction for the Metrolinx[2] project to eliminate a congestion point for GO and VIA Rail[3] service along the Newmarket subdivision — GO’s Barrie line. The project is a key component of the overall GO Expansion Program to expand, improve and electrify GO services along five rail lines. Under GO Expansion, Metrolinx plans to introduce frequent, two-way, all-day train service in both directions to those rail corridors, including along the Barrie line.

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The Davenport Diamond in 2015, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The Davenport Diamond grade separation has been one of the most controversial aspects of expanding commuter-rail service along the rail corridor. Metrolinx started developing the project to eliminate the level crossing as early as 2009[4]. The diamond was one of the busiest train track intersections in North America, where Canadian Pacific Railway[5] freight trains along the east-west North Toronto Subdivision and north-south GO trains intersected at a ground-level rail crossing. (A diamond is a place where two railroad [or streetcar] tracks meet. Viewed from above, the rails at the junctions sometimes seem to form diamond shapes.)

As diesel trains require a long time to accelerate and decelerate, the Davenport Diamond was a major bottleneck, severely impacting the reliability of freight and commuter traffic. Freight trains regularly delayed GO trains often as long as 10 minutes and the lack of regular schedules for CP freight traffic potentially added to the diamond’s congestion problems. The crossing severely limited the frequency at which GO trains could operate, so, for Metrolinx to provide the very frequent train service it proposed for GO Expansion, it required a different kind of crossing. It examined three concepts for upgrading the junction.

Map of the Davenport Diamond Guideway, image courtesy of Metrolinx

  • The first concept proposed lowering the tracks from north of Wallace Avenue to south of Rogers Road, so that trains passed under new bridges at Dupont Street, the CP North Toronto Subdivision, Davenport Road and St. Clair Avenue West. This model recommended a double-track Newmarket Subdivision, with one track for CN freight trains and the other for GO trains.

  • The second concept proposed raising the tracks onto a concrete structure from south of Bloor Street West to Davenport Road. In this proposal, GO and CN would raise the current bridges at Bloor, Dupont and Davenport and build new bridges to cross Wallace Avenue and the CP tracks. This model recommended a double-track Newmarket Sub, with one track for CN freight trains and the other for GO trains.

  • Similarly, the third concept also proposed raising the tracks onto a retaining wall, this time from just south of Wallace to just south of Davenport. This proposal required raising the current bridge over Dupont Street and building a new bridge across the CP tracks. This proposal might require the City to permanently close Wallace Avenue to pedestrians and vehicles.

Tmeline of the Davenport Diamond Guideway project, image courtesy of Metrolinx

For Metrolinx, the elevated GO option offered several advantages over the “under” option, including cost of the project ($120m for the “over” option; $650m for “under”), timeline (two years for “over”; five to seven years for “under”), and several others factors like utility relocation, impact on TTC[6] service and excavation. Metrolinx concluded that it could build an elevated structure in less time, at a lower cost and with less impact on neighbouring residents.

However, many in the nearby community opposed the proposal, even after Metrolinx engaged in extensive public consultation to improve the plan. Some residents of the nearby neighbourhood, speaking[7] to CBC News Toronto in 2016, described the proposal, which, in some places would raise the tracks above homes, as a “Gardiner Expressway for GO trains”. (The existing tracks were mostly on the surface.)

Metrolinx claimed it could build the guideway less expensively, more quickly and with less impact on residents than a tunnel. Image courtesy of Metrolinx

For example, a community group, Options for Davenport, said that “in early 2015, Metrolinx took our neighbourhood and the City of Toronto by surprise when it announced plans to build a 1.6-kilometre long rail overpass through the middle of our west Toronto community. The structure Metrolinx has proposed will be three stories high, up to three GO Train tracks wide, and run directly alongside hundreds of homes as well as three well-loved parks.”

According[8] to the Toronto Star, the City of Toronto[9] was also not in favour of the overpass:

“Toronto city council is blasting Ontario’s transportation agency and its plan for a big elevated rail bridge through the Davenport neighbourhood…

“Council voted 38-1 to tell Metrolinx it opposes the overpass and supports a tunnel. Council also wants [then Premier Kathleen] Wynne to intervene and meet with Mayor John Tory ‘as soon as possible to express council’s concerns.’

“[Then] City planner Jennifer Keesmaat told council she wanted full study and evaluation of the overpass, tunnel and a ‘trench’ option, but Metrolinx timelines don’t allow for that. With the information at hand, city staff determined a tunnel would disrupt the area’s revitalization the least, she said.”

According to Metrolinx overpass construction would have impacted 3,900 people, while tunnel construction would have impacted 6,600 people, image courtesy of Metrolinx

After Options for Davenport and other residents voiced their concerns about the project and its impact on the area, Metrolinx revised its designs for the project. The Star reported that it “lightened[10]” the design, transforming the bridge into what it’s now calling “a guideway”, with a “greenway” below. Staff also reviewed the impact of noise, vibration and shadow on the communities to provide more details about the scale and impacts of the different structures. As the agency proceeded, it also proposed using higher-quality materials on some sections of the guideway and improving the pedestrian environment around and under the guideway.

For its part, Metrolinx said that the new overpass would help “unlock the land” beneath it, “reconnect communities” on both sides of the tracks and create “potential public space and pedestrian / cycling trails”.

It formed a residents’ reference panel of 36 community members to help recommend what it can do with the area under the overpass to benefit its neighbours and leave a lasting legacy for the community.

Details of a pedestrian bridge across Davenport Road to Earlscourt Park also pleased residents. The bridge would remove the need for children to cross the busy street to get to the park. The bridge wasn’t initially part of the overpass plan, but after some study and community pressure, Metrolinx has committed to completing it.

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VIA Rail’s The Canadian crosses Wallace Avenue at grade, in March during construction of the Davenport Diamond Guideway, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor ProjectEnd

In June, 2019[11], Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario[12] selected Graham Commuter Rail Solutions (GCRS) as their preferred proponent to design, build and finance the Davenport Diamond Guideway Project. The 1.4-kilometre elevated overpass extends from just south of Davenport Road to north of Bloor Street West. It lies roughly one block west of Lansdowne Avenue.

For the contractor, the project’s scope of work included:

  • building the rail “grade separation structure” (overpass);
  • building retaining walls to form the approaches of the overpass and noise-reduction walls to decrease the impact on the nearby community;
  • building a temporary diversion track to enable crews to build the new two-track elevated “guideway”;
  • modifying the rail crossing at Wallace Avenue to an “under-rail grade separation” (underpass); and
  • replacing a bridge, carrying the Barrie line tracks over Bloor Street West.

A GO train crosses the Davenport Diamond Guideway near houses during testing, Monday, April 3, 2023, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor vic

By taking on the project, GCRS also assumed responsibility for building in an active rail corridor with limited access points and staging and co-ordinating its work with other teams completing other parts of the Barrie rail corridor expansion project.

The consortium first got to work by building a diversion track in 2020. The diversion track allowed GO trains to operate through the area while it proceeded with construction of the elevated guideway and new tracks. Later that year, they started building the new mainline tracks on the west side of the right of way. In 2022, they began working on the east tracks. Construction on the east-side tracks is continuing and Metrolinx cannot introduce frequent service along the line until the contractors complete that part of the project.

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Now that the bridge is complete, Metrolinx should start working on the linked series of public spaces under the bridge, as it promised residents. Completing both aspects of the project simultaneously was not possible for construction reasons.

“If you do the public realm first, then you’re going to damage it and have to rip it all up,” a Metrolinx spokesperson said during a Metrolinx open house in 2015. “You want to do the finishes last.”

When it’s done, the ambitious “greenway” will use the former rail lands under the overpass which are no longer necessary now that the GO trains are running above. The spaces would connect as a multi-use trail with stops along the way to sit and congregate, and plenty of interactive art to explore throughout.

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The second downbound GO test train exits the Davenport Diamond Guideway during testing, April 3, 2023, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor crs1026

During the past 15 years, Metrolinx and GO have completed other grade separation projects at other diamond crossings.

In June, 2007, also on the Barrie line, they finished a 17-month project to eliminate the Snider Diamond. During that project GO and CN raised the Newmarket subdivision tracks, so that trains could cross CP’s busy York Subdivision, just north of Steeles Avenue West in Vaughan.

For the Hagerman Diamond, GO and CN lowered Uxbridge subdivision tracks — the route of GO’s Stouffville service — to eliminate the rail intersection with CP’s York Sub near 14th Avenue in Markham.

They also separated CN’s Weston Subdivision from CP’s North Toronto Sub at the West Toronto Diamond[13]. And. the Governments of Canada[14] and Ontario[15] funded a project to build a grade separation at Hamilton Junction[16], on the Lakeshore West line just west of that city near the Desjardins Canal.

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UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this project, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, linked below. If you’d like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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UrbanToronto has a research service, UrbanToronto Pro[17], that provides comprehensive data on construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area—from proposal through to completion. We also offer Instant Reports[18], downloadable snapshots based on location, and a daily subscription newsletter, New Development Insider[19], that tracks projects from initial application.


  1. ^ GO Transit (
  2. ^ Metrolinx (
  3. ^ VIA Rail (
  4. ^ as early as 2009 (
  5. ^ Canadian Pacific Railway (
  6. ^ TTC (
  7. ^ speaking (
  8. ^ According (
  9. ^ City of Toronto (
  10. ^ lightened (
  11. ^ In June, 2019 (
  12. ^ Infrastructure Ontario (
  13. ^ West Toronto Diamond (
  14. ^ Canada (
  15. ^ Ontario (
  16. ^ Hamilton Junction (
  17. ^ UrbanToronto Pro (
  18. ^ Instant Reports (
  19. ^ New Development Insider (

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