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No more train trauma for Adelaide Street commuters

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London, Ont. is a city of rivers and rail, and they are no friends to commuters.

Now those commuters are getting a little relief from some of the train trauma.

A turning point came at 10:18 a.m. on Friday, April 19, 2024; The last time rail crossing arms were dropped down to stop traffic on Adelaide Street North near Central Avenue.

One of the last people caught in traffic waiting for a train at that location was David Saunders.

"Wow, that's amazing. I can't believe that,” Saunders told CTV News after stepping out of his vehicle during the lengthy delay. “I've been in this city for almost 20 years and I've been stopped for many trains and this is one of the last times. That's fascinating."

As Saunders and others were waiting in the northbound lanes, southbound traffic was paraded through the new Adelaide Street rail underpass; led by members of the construction team. Many people honked their horns in an apparent tribute to the workers.

While some became the first to use the underpass, others became the last to deal with a train delay at the notorious crossing on April 19, 2024. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

Jennie Dann, London’s director of Construction and Infrastructure, was on site as the underpass was opened, "The wow factor is certainly with the underpass itself but even our first year of construction we had a full year of work to do in preparation before we could even start excavating the main structure."

Anyone not from London may question why an underpass would generate so much interest. The challenge was that the crossing is adjacent to the CPKC rail yard in London and train shunting caused repeated and unpredictable delays on Adelaide Street.

"We're really glad that we can go out onto Adelaide and just zip down,” said Richard. He lives on Lorne Avenue, not far from the construction site. He would drop by during daily walks, getting ongoing updates and lessons about the project from construction crews. “I thought it was just an underpass, dig a hole, build it, and go underneath."

Richard found out it was much more than that, learning about the challenges of pumping water out of below-grade roadways, along with getting an understanding of how sewer, water, and communication lines had to be handled.

One lane of traffic in each direction is now open, passing under the CPKC rail line going over Adelaide Street, seen on April 19, 2024. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

The project came in at $87 million, with $11 million coming from the feds and the province. Dann said one of the goals was to ensure the underpass wasn't just built for cars, "It will benefit Londoners whether you walk, bike, take transit, or drive. We're really excited about the way it's going to connect the neighbourhood."

The underpass currently has one lane of traffic heading in each direction, but City of London Construction Project Manager Max Kireev said crews will continue to work toward their ultimate goal, "…to have the two lanes of traffic in each direction a little later this summer, closer to the fall of this year. I want to say probably closer to the end of October you will see four lanes going under."

There are also plans for seating areas, planter boxes, and connections to nearby McMahen Park.

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