Prince Edward Viaduct
|Prince Edward Viaduct|
|Other name(s)||Bloor Street Viaduct|
|Carries||5 vehicle lanes and 2 bicycle lanes of Bloor Street/Danforth Avenue, and the Bloor–Danforth Subway|
|Locale||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Maintained by||Toronto Transportation Services, Toronto Transit Commission|
|Design||Double-decked arch bridge|
|Total length||494 metres (1620 feet)|
|Clearance below||40 metres (131 feet)|
|Opened||October 18, 1918 |
The Prince Edward Viaduct System, commonly referred to as the Bloor Viaduct or the viaduct, is the name of a truss arch bridge system in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that connects Bloor Street East, on the west side of the system, with Danforth Avenue on the east. The Don Valley phase of the system, the most recognizable, spans the Don River Valley, crossing over (from west to east) the Bayview Avenue Extension, the Don River, and the Don Valley Parkway.
The Prince Edward Viaduct system also includes the Rosedale Valley phase (a smaller bridge carrying Bloor Street over the Rosedale Ravine and referred to as the Rosedale Valley Bridge) and the Sherbourne Phase, an embankment built to extend Bloor Street East to the Rosedale Ravine from Sherbourne Street.
The Bloor Street-Rosedale Valley Bridge is a western extension of the Prince Edward Viaduct. The bridge, officially known as the Rosedale Valley Phase of the Prince Edward Viaduct System, runs west of the Bloor Street Viaduct and ends west of Parliament Street. The bridge stone work is similar to the Bloor Street Viaduct and another bridge on O'Connor Drive (over Taylor Creek) to the east of the Don River.
The roadway has five lanes (three eastbound and two westbound) with a bicycle lane in each direction. The subway level connects Broadview Station in the east with Castle Frank and Sherbourne Stations to the west.
Designed by Edmund W. Burke, the Prince Edward Viaduct is a three hinged concrete-steel arch bridge, with a total span of 494 metres at 40 metres above the Don Valley. The bridge consists of a deck, made up of transverse beams and I-girders, which transfer load to column supports. The column supports then transfer the load to the trusses within the arches, which transfer the load to the arches themselves. Finally, the arches transfer their load through large hinges, which transfer load to a concrete pillar, and eventually to the ground.
Referendums on the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct were held in Toronto in every year from 1910 to 1913, with residents voting against its construction in 1912 by 59 votes and in favour in 1913 by 9236 votes. The projected cost of its construction increased from CDN$759,000 in 1910 to CDN$2.5 million in 1913; its final cost was CDN$2,480,349.05 ($34.3 million in 2014 dollars). Upon its completion in 1918, it was named for the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII.
It was designed to facilitate mass transit; its upper deck accommodated trams, while both the Don Valley phase and the Rosedale Valley phase included a lower deck for rail transport, controversial at the time because of its high additional cost. The bridge's designer and the commissioner of public works R.C. Harris were able to have their way, and the lower deck eventually proved to save millions of dollars when the Toronto Transit Commission's Bloor–Danforth subway, opened in 1966, was able to use the Don Valley phase with no major structural changes to cross the Don River Valley. The Rosedale Valley phase was not used for the subway, as the curve between each phase - as well as the curve to the west at Parliament Street - was considered too sharp for the subway. A separate bridge was built over Rosedale Valley west of the Castle Frank Subway Station at the west end of the Bloor–Danforth Viaduct. This covered subway bridge was designed by John B. Parkin and Associates with De Leuw Cather Canada (now Delcan) and completed in 1966.
Growth of Toronto
The Prince Edward Viaduct has had two major impacts on the development of Toronto as a city. First, the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct resulted in more rapid development of those portions of Toronto lying on the east side of the Don Valley. Secondly, the construction of the Bloor–Danforth line of the Toronto Transit Commission's subway system in the 1960s was significantly facilitated by the viaduct architect's decision to have a lower deck on the bridge.
Suicides and accidental falls
At the time of the construction of the viaduct, suicide was not considered to be a major social issue, and as such the bridge design did not include any means for the prevention of suicides. As suicide became more prevalent in society, and with an increase in the city population, the Prince Edward Viaduct became a magnet for suicide, as people could easily jump over its low railings. This not only posed a risk to the lives of the jumpers, but also to the traffic underneath, which was in danger of being hit by a falling body. It was also possible for a child to climb onto the railing and fall accidentally while walking along it.
With nearly 500 suicides by 2003, the Viaduct ranks as the third most fatal standing structure in the world, after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. At its peak in 1997, the suicide rate averaged one person every 22 days. This prompted the construction of a suicide barrier in 2003 called the Luminous Veil.
Designed by architect Derek Revington and engineers at Halcrow Yolles, and completed in 2003 at the cost of C$5.5 million, the Luminous Veil consists of over 9,000 steel rods, 12.7 cm apart and 5 m high, stretched to cantilevered girders to function as a suicide barrier. At the same time as the construction of the Luminous Veil, the bridge also underwent a renovation with the waterproofing and concrete deterioration being replaced. While awaiting approval of the barrier and during construction, which was subject to numerous delays, 48 to 60 suicides took place at the bridge. The Luminous Veil received the 1999 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.
Appearance in popular culture
- The film Saint Monica (2002), set in Toronto, prominently features the Viaduct.
- A scene from the movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) was filmed on the Viaduct.
In literature, plays, and publications
(Alphabetical by author)
- The bridge plays a key role in the play In Gabriel's Kitchen by Salvatore Antonio, which is set before construction of the Luminous Veil.
- The construction of the bridge was used as a setting for the historical fiction of Michael Ondaatje's novel In the Skin of a Lion.
- The bridge is mentioned Robert J. Sawyer's novel Flashforward.
- The song "War on Drugs" by the Barenaked Ladies was inspired by, and refers to, the Viaduct.
- The humorous song "Anything could happen" by Bruce Cockburn opens with "You could have gone off the Bloor Street Viaduct".
- In the Spoons music video for "Romantic Traffic", lead singer Gordon Deppe looks out from the Viaduct as the TTC subway train he is in passes through it.
- The song "National Hum" by The Constantines refers to the construction of the Luminous Veil: "Your mayor is raising fences to keep bodies off the Don Valley Parkway."
- In a Degrassi Junior High episode titled "Dog Days", the character Stephanie Kaye contemplates jumping off the Viaduct to commit suicide. Her brother Arthur later talks her out of it.
- Photo of westbound traffic
- "Toronto Prepares For A Million People, Carries All Bylaws, Bloor Street Viaduct Will Be Built". Toronto World. January 2, 1913. p. 1.
- Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada. "Consumer Price Index, historical summary". CANSIM, table (for fee) 326-0021 and Catalogue nos. 62-001-X, 62-010-X and 62-557-X. And Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly) (Canada) Last modified 2013-12-20. Retrieved January 8, 2014
- "Tumbles From Viaduct, Boy Hits Mud, Unhurt". Globe and Mail. June 3, 1957. p. 1.
- Rivera, John. "A barrier to hopeless souls ; Suicide: Closing off a Toronto bridge to people seeking to end their lives took years of work and a $5.5 million work of art.", The Baltimore Sun, January 13, 2003. Accessed November 14, 2009. "We look at this bridge and know there are at least 480 souls at the bottom who spent the last moment of their life on the way down."
- Ritter, John. "Suicides tarnish the Golden Gate ; Filmed deaths renew debate over barriers on landmark", USA Today, January 31, 2005. accessed November 14, 2009. "North America's No. 2 suicide draw, Toronto's Prince Edward Viaduct, built a multimillion-dollar barrier in 2003 after more than 400 suicides."
- Sinyor, Mark; Levitt, Anthony J (July 6, 2010). "Effect of a barrier at Bloor Street Viaduct on suicide rates in Toronto: natural experiment". British Medical Journal. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- Bridge Barrier Fails to Lower Toronto's Suicide Rate: Suicide-by-jumping rate at Bloor Street Viaduct lower; rates at other bridges higher, HealthDay News, July 7, 2010. Retrieved from ModernMedicine.com's website, July 2, 2013.
- Mental Health Promotion: Overcoming the challenges to 'focusing upstream'
- NOW: Where spirits live, May 8 - 14, 2003
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